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Centre Appoints Three Interlocutors For Kashmir

New Delhi, Oct 13: The Centre today named three interlocutors, including eminent journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, to hold talks with all shades of opinion including the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to
PTI October 13, 2010 16:43 IST
PTI
New Delhi, Oct 13: The Centre today named three interlocutors, including eminent journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, to hold talks with all shades of opinion including the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to bring peace in the state.

Besides Padgaonkar, Information Commissioner M M Ansari and noted academician Radha Kumar were the other two named by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram as interlocutors chosen in consultation with the state government.

Chidambaram said the three interlocutors are "very credible people" and they will begin work as early as possible. "We may add one more interlocutor later," he said.

The decision to appoint a set of interlocutors was taken at the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting chaired by Prime Mamohan Singh on September 25.

The terms and references of the panel will be to hold talks all shades of opinion including mainstream political parties and separatists. The panel will cover views of all the three regions--Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.

Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, has been engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Recently, she was in the Valley and had met Geelani who was undergoing treatment in Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar.  Padgaonkar was part of Kashmir committee led by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

Ansari, who was professor and Director at the Hamdard University, is an educationist and economist before moving as an Information Commissioner.  

The appointment of interlocutors is part of the eight-point initiative announced by the Government after the CCS meeting in September to hold "sustained dialogue" with various shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Centre had also announced grant of ex-gratia relief to the families of the those killed in civil disturbances since June 11. The total number of dead has crossed 100.

The Centre had also advised the state government to immediately review the cases of all Public Safety Act detenues and withdraw the detention orders in appropriate cases.  

In Srinagar,  hardline Hurriyat Conference  rejected as a "futile exercise" the Centre's appointment of interlocutors.

"This is a futile exercise. The Government of India is acting like the deaf and dumb," Syed Ali Shah Geelani said.

Geelani said no dialogue can be held for resolution of Kashmir issue unless the Centre acts on the five-point proposal mooted by him in August this year for normalisation of situation in the Valley. "We have given the five-point formula. Instead of reacting to it, they are beating around the bush," he said.

The Hurriyat hawk had demanded in August that the Centre accept Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute. He also sought release all political prisoners including those arrested for stone-pelting, withdrawal of armed forces from the state, putting an end to "human rights violations" and arresting the security personnel responsible for the civilian killings during the recent unrest in the Valley.

Moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said, his faction will study the development and hold discussions with the members of the executive committee before making a statement. JKLF Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik refused to comment.

CPI(M) leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami said  the composition of the group of interlocutors  was unsatisfactory. "Although we have full faith in the integrity and honesty of the people who have been named as interlocutors, we have been all along vehemently demanding constitution of a Parliamentary panel in view the political nature of the present crisis," Tarigami said.  

He said the initiatives taken by the Centre in the past to hold dialogue with the "voices of dissent" in Kashmir have suffered due to trust and credibility deficit.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti  chose not to immediately react. "We will study the development before reacting to it," she said.

IN Delhi, Chidambaram  said the three interlocutors will begin the process of "sustained uninterrupted dialogue" with all shades of opinion to resolve the Kashmir problem.  

"We hope that they will begin a process of sustained uninterrupted dialogue with all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially with youths and students and all shades of political opinion," he told reporters.

Asked why none of the interlocutors has a political background, he said: "All of them are engaged in work which is in public domain and we think they are very credible people, people with a good track record and they can begin their work as early as possible and I am sure they will start their work as early as possible." He said, government may add another interlocutor later. PTI