SrinagarThe much-talked-about peace initiative by New Delhi on Kashmir started for the first time by the Modi-led BJP government since assuming power some three years ago turned on the second day of Sharmas visit to the Valley a damp squib at the heavily-fortified Hari Niwas state guest house near the Dal Lake here.
The big names stayed away but the Centre’s special representative on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma held a series of meetings with civil society and youth groups on Tuesday, day two of his visit to the Valley.
Sharma, the former director of the Intelligence Bureau who is on a five-day visit to the state, is expected to meet political leaders here today as part of efforts to talk to various stakeholders and find lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
He is spending three days in the Kashmir Valley and two days in Jammu, where he will hold talks with Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and various delegations.
All separatist parties, including both factions of the Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) have declined to meet Sharma, saying his appointment is only a time-buying tactic.
However, away from the media glare, Sharma was busy meeting delegations arranged by Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan. Officials privy to the parleys said Sharma’s engagements have so far been aimed at assessing the feelings of local residents, who have suffered the most in the decades of violence in the Valley.
A PDP youth leader, a delegation of youths from downtown Srinagar, a Sikh group and traders were amongst those who have met Sharma.
Waheed Para, PDP youth leader and secretary Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council, discussed problems faced by the youth and steps needed to be taken by the Centre to wean students and youth away from the cycle of violence, officials said.
Para later told PTI that steps should be taken to ensure that the present process of dialogue gives dignity to people of the state.
“There is anger and alienation on the ground because of the uncertainty. This needs to be addressed,” Para said.
Sharma, he said, should reach out to those who have for years suffered because of the violence. “Their wounds should be nursed as soon as possible.”
Talks, he said, should be held with every shade of opinion.
A group of youth from downtown Srinagar met Sharma quietly Monday night and discussed their problems. Some suggested that the presence of security personnel should be reduced once the situation attains some sense of normalcy.
While major trade associations like the Kashmir Economic Alliance and the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry have refrained from meeting Sharma, smaller trade bodies from various districts quietly called on him, officials said.
They discussed problems, including taxation related issues, repayment of bank loans and difficulties in transporting of fruits.
Issues regarding lack of employment opportunities and basic amenities, nepotism and the non-implementation of many central policies were also raised.
A Sikh delegation, led by All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee Jagmohan Singh Raina, also met Sharma and flagged its concerns.
“We told him about our demand for minority status. It has been the commitment of the state government but no steps have been taken in this regard either by the state or the Central government,” Raina said.
He said the delegation impressed upon Sharma the need to hold dialogue with separatists groups if the Centre was “serious and sincere” about restoring peace in the state.
Sharma, who also met several senior media personalities, is expected to meet political leaders today. These include Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress chief G A Mir, CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami and independent MLA from Khansahib Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen.
His meeting with National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah has not been confirmed.
Some National Conference leaders have said the entire process of talks has been “badly handled” as there has been no formal invitation from the special representative.
Soon after his appointment on October 23, Sharma had said his aim was to nurse the wounds of common Kashmiris for which he would take help of all stakeholders, including political parties — both ruling and opposition as well as smaller regional parties.
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