All Party Parliamentary Delegation to J&K Restore Normalcy: Initiate Unconditional Political Dialogue with All Stake-Holders

Sitaram Yechury

The All Party Delegation to Jammu and Kashmir returned to Delhi after spending two days in J&K. Our meetings with all sections of the society in the state helped us get a first-hand understanding of the seriousness of the situation in the Valley. This came two months too late; had this come six weeks ago, several innocent lives that were lost, could have been saved.

A few steps to immediately restore confidence amongst the people in the state are essential, to calm tempers and help normalise the situation in the Valley. Starting with stopping the use of pellet guns, the government must compensate those who have lost loved ones, or been blinded or suffered losses in this time, must identify those guilty of excesses against unarmed civilians, on the basis of a judicial enquiry take action against them and withdraw AFSPA from civilian areas. This step should be accompanied by the immediate implementation of long pending development projects in the state with focus on employment generation.

The governments in Srinagar and Delhi must do what is necessary to win back the trust of the people and take the process of unconditional political dialogue with all stakeholders forward.

India cannot allow extremists and hardliners, of whatever persuasion, to run away with the Kashmir discourse. We must deal with the situation from a position of confidence, the confidence in our system, our democracy, and most importantly in our people in the state of J&K.

There is no alternative to talking, especially talking to those we may not agree with, and to those holding different shades of opinions. Due to inadequate homework and the delay in taking an all party delegation to the state, we did not achieve more. The homework required to be done by the government was to identify proposals from several working group recommendations and the interlocutors report of 2010, and to have crystallised the issues. This would have enabled a focussed discussion with stakeholders around specific proposals and alternatives. The government did not do this. Had this been done, the delegation visit would have been much more meaningful.

But the members of the delegation did their bit to break the ice. We met four of the five Hurriyat leaders that some of us MPs had set out to meet - I was accompanied by Sharad Yadav (JDU), JP Yadav (RJD) and D Raja (CPI). To be fair, all the Hurriyat leaders said that they had taken a collective decision to not engage in any political dialogue with the all party delegation, in the background of what was currently happening in the Valley. Therefore, while Syed Ali Shah Geelani did not meet us, we met Yasin Mallik, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Shabbir Shah. The idea was to convey to the people of J&K that there are members of the Indian delegation who are prepared for this kind of an outreach -- to meet and discuss with all stakeholders, so as to restore peace and normalcy. Mere expressions of anguish are of little value, if not accompanied by a process of political dialogue.

This outreach by some of us should be properly followed up.  This should serve as a basis for discussions for long-term peace. The government must not hesitate to initiate unconditional dialogue with all stake-holders in J&K, as that can be the only way forward. Let us not forget that even during the NDA-1 government, the deputy prime minister, LK Advani had held talks with the Hurriyat leaders in Delhi in January 2004.

Upon return to Delhi, the all party delegation met in the parliament on September 7, 2016.  At this meeting, I had suggested a dual track approach. One is the announcement of the five CBMs listed above.  The other is the unconditional political dialogue with all stake-holders.  This track must also include the restarting of the Indo-Pak dialogue. The forthcoming SAARC summit in Pakistan, particularly, as reported, if the PM is going to attend this, must serve as the opening to do this.

The need of the hour is to immediately announce a concrete plan to build confidence amongst the people in the Valley, reduce growing alienation, and help normalise the situation in the state.

The home minister was asked by us about the reports that have appeared in the media on actions and harsher steps being taken against separatist leaders. The minister denied these reports and said nothing along these lines was being contemplated by the government.
 
The government has taken on board what we have said and agreed to appeal to people of Kashmir to restore normalcy and move forward through a dialogue process.

After a full discussion on the way forward the meeting adopted the following statement:

“The members of the all party parliamentary delegation have expressed serious concerns of the prevailing situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The members of the delegation are of the opinion that there is no place for violence in a civilised society. There can be no compromises on issue of national sovereignty.
"The members appeal to the people of the state to shun the path of violence and resolve all the issues through dialogue and discussion. The members requested the central and state government to take steps for a dialogue with all stake-holders.  The members asked the central and state government to take steps to ensure that educational institutions, government offices and commercial establishments start functioning normally at the earliest. They requested the government to take effective steps to ensure security for all citizens and provide medical treatment to citizens and security personnel injured in the agitation."
It is now incumbent upon the central government to implement this understanding in right earnest and start the process of the political dialogue immediately.  
Prime Minister Modi’s slogan of ‘vikas aur vishwas’ sounds hollow and meaningless if it is not backed by concrete actions.  Both vikas (development) and vishwas (trust) cannot drop from the skies.  They have to be created through concrete planned actions. It must be remembered that when the then PM, Vajpayee, gave the slogans of ‘jamhooriyat, insaniyat and Kashmiriyat’, this was accompanied by a unilateral ceasefire announced by the government of India.  This was then known as the `Ramzan ceasefire’.  Similarly, the government of India today must take concrete steps on the lines that we have suggested.

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