Hurriyat has a point

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Hurriyat has finally decided to say no to the talks with the centre’s new interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma. In a belated statement issued on Tuesday, the pro-freedom amalgam had termed the centre’s new initiative as “nothing more than a tactic”. The grouping urged the centre that before any dialogue it should acknowledge that “there is a dispute that has to be resolved”. It rightly questioned the centre’s sincerity towards dialogue when the Prime Minister had himself rejected the former home minister P Chidambaram’s call for the autonomy.   Earlier Hurriyat had preferred to maintain a studious silence over the  interlocutor’s appointment, even while Pakistan had rejected the initiative as “insincere and unrealistic” as it didn’t directly seek to talk to Hurriyat and Islamabad itself.

However, nobody expected Hurriyat to choose to engage Sharma as there is apparently little for it to gain from it. Earlier also Hurriyat had boycotted the three member group of the interlocutors headed by the late Dileep Padgaonkar which was appointed by the UPA Government in 2010 following the extended unrest which 120 Kashmiri youth. The group which included Dr Radha Kumar and M M Ansari held consultations with a large number of political and civil society organizations over one year and compiled a report recommending strengthening of Kashmir’s autonomy and review of all the central laws extended to the state. However, the report found fewer takers in the government and has since been put into cold storage. 

Hurriyat, however, is least at fault for adopting the stance it has. From the mandate of Sharma, it is very clear that the talks with Hurriyat have the least priority. Like his predecessors, he is expected to talk to everybody including Hurriyat. What is more, he will not extend an invite to Hurriyat but the latter are expected to present themselves before him.  The initiative is thus designed to leave Hurriyat out. And this, in itself, defeats the very purpose of the dialogue and renders it what Hurriyat has aptly described it as “nothing more than a tactic”. Adding to the complications will be the narrower mandate of Sharma considering the BJP’s extreme integrationist outlook on Kashmir. And Hurriyat which represents the state’s separatist extreme will hardly like to be seen to engage with an interlocutor who has little to offer in response to their demand. 

There is thus little hope that the new political outreach to Kashmir will make any difference at all. The new interlocutor will also go through his motions and submit a report. Considering the tone set by no less than the Prime Minister himself, whereby he has ruled out the restoration of the autonomy to the state or even a discussion about it, there is little hope that Sharma’s report will depart from the strict nationalist line of Sangh Parivar. This has already made even the mainstream parties like National Conference question the wisdom of the fresh attempt at interlocution. So for Sharma to be taken seriously, the BJP Government at the centre will need to expand its political imagination with regard to Kashmir.

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