Kashmir situation still grim, says Yashwant Sinha-led delegation

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SRINAGAR: The five-member delegation led by senior BJP leader and former Union External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday said there was an improvement in the situation in the unrest-hit Valley but situation was still very grim and there was a lot of anger among the people against India.

The delegation members led by Sinha and including Wajahat Habibullah, Sushoba Barve, journalist Bharat Bhushan and former Air Marsal (Retd) Kapil Kak met the civil society members today at a hotel in Srinagar. During the interaction, the participants put forth their suggestions on how to restore peace in the Valley, which is witnessing unrest since the killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.

At least 94 people have been killed, more than 13,000 injured and over 8,000 arrested during the five months of unrest.

“We have met a lot of people in the last three days in the Valley. We visited central Kashmir’s Budgam district and met Aga Syed Al Mousvi, who is a member of Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference,” said Wajahat Habibullah.

He said the delegation, which arrived here on its second visit on Saturday, also met youngsters in Shopian and Anantnag in South Kashmir yesterday.

“We have been meeting a lot of people. We met the brother of detained separatist leader Shabir Shah in Anantnag. We met youngsters, young entrepreneurs, a group of clergymen and a delegation of the Sikh community,” said Wajahat, a former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and the first Chief Information Commissioner.

Independent MLA Er Sheikh Abdur Rashid also met the delegation today and told it that “J&K is not an integral part of India and the government of India should hold talks with the militant leadership”.

Wajahat said everybody talks of peace. “The common thread during these interactions has been a desire for peace”.

It was the second visit of the Sinha-led delegation to the unrest-hit Valley. Earlier, the team had visited Kashmir in October and among others met separatist leaders, who had refused to talk to the All Party Delegation (APD) members in September.

“We are talking to all sections of society and seeking suggestions from them.   It is a question of discussing ideas and what are the ways to restore peace and tranquillity in the Valley,” Wajahat said.

He admitted that the problem in Kashmir is very deep rooted. “It is a fact that there is a problem and that has to be recognized”.

Asked whether they see an improvement in situation in the Valley, Wajahat said, “There is certainly a distinctive improvement. It is noticeable.”

He, however, said although there is a semblance of peace in the Valley, the situation is still very grim.

According to him, the situation in Kashmir is now better. “The separatist leaders have been released and they are meeting with each other. The education system is back on track. Schools are open and examination has been held”.

“How much credit we want to take? We don’t want to take credit for anything,” Wajahat said.

When he was told that separatists have softened their “weekly protest shutdown calendar” and announced a three-day relaxation in the shutdown, Wajahat said, “There is an improvement in the situation. How much credit goes to us, I am not willing to say. But we do believe that we have contributed to it”.

The separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, who are spearheading the five-month long agitation in the Valley, last week announced a three-day relaxation in shutdown.

Wajahat, who is a former Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, acknowledged that there is a lot of anger in Valley.

“Anger is concentrated against India. We have come here as Indian citizens to tell people that we have come to work with you. They (Kashmiris) are unhappy over the policies of Government of India. There is criticism on Kashmir policies of present and past governments. Kashmiris feel they have not been understood and given due respect by rest of country,” he added.

Wajahat said they have been giving feedback to Central government about their visits to the Valley. “After our last visit, we gave the feedback to central government, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Home Affairs. We would be doing the same this time also”.

“We will also be sharing our feedback with the State government,” he added. 

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