The ground is being laid for a meeting between the Centre’s special representative to Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, and the separatist leadership in the Valley, government officials and the separatists have independently confirmed, even as New Delhi makes renewed efforts to restore peace in a region where violence has peaked in recent weeks.
“The meeting between Sharma and the separatists may happen after Eid following a review of the government’s initiative to halt operations against militants in the Valley during Ramzan. The review will also have bearing on the any decision to extend period for halt on operations in the Valley,” said a government official familiar with the deliberations on the issue, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The review of the unilateral cessation of operations of security forces during Ramzan, declared on May 16, will be conducted in the presence of home minister Rajnath Singh, who visits the state on Thursday. Singh confirmed to reporters in Delhi on Tuesday that any discussion on the extension of ceasefire will take place during his visit.
During the meeting, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is expected to strongly recommend extending the so-called ceasefire for another two months. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Rafi Ahmad said Singh will also meet a delegation of young people and sportspersons to discuss how young people in the state can be discouraged from joining militants.
A senior PDP leader close to the chief minister said Mufti has consistently called for a ceasefire and a dialogue with the separatist leadership. Both may have “some impediments in the beginning but will have a gradual impact on ground and Mufti will convey to the home minister about the benefits in the long run,” the leader said on the condition of anonymity.
In Delhi, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the army is honouring the temporary suspension of counter-terror operations but that the force had been given room to respond if there is an “unprovoked attack”.
Asked about the possibility of an extension, she said, “Well, it has been announced for Ramzan and if there is anything (extension) I will come back to you.”
Kashmir has witnessed a violent week after the director generals of military operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan agreed on May 29 to strictly enforce a ceasefire declared in 2003 along the Line of Control and stop shelling along the de facto border. But since then, there have been 12 grenade attacks that have left scores injured. On Monday, sector-level commanders of both countries met at a flag meeting even as Srinagar remained on edge after a 21-year-old man was crushed by a paramilitary vehicle that was targeted by stone-pelting protesters last Friday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Jammu and Kashmir in-charge, Ram Madhav, has also indicated that the government was willing to talk to the Hurriyat. “Once we come to the end of Ramzan, we will take realistic assessment of the situation and certainly the government will take a view,” he told CNN News 18.
Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also part of the Joint Resistant Leadership (JLR) of the Hurriyat Conference, along with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik said, “Let GOI (government of India) come with clarity on what it wants to talk about, we are ready to reciprocate.” Mirwaiz added that the people of Kashmir have the biggest stake in peace as they are at they are at the receiving end of the conflict.
“Being the worst affected, we are most keen to find a solution and hence have always advocated that being a political and human issue it needs to be addressed likewise and dialogue among the three stakeholders is the best process and option available. Hurriyat stands for dialogue and we urge the government of India to shun its military approach to the issue and rather than vaguely talking about “development” and “peace” we need to focus on resolution and negotiations,” he said.
On May 29 when the DGMOs spoke, the JLR issued a statement asking the Indian government to provide clarity on what it wanted to talk about and speak in one voice.
A top separatist said on the condition of anonymity that the statement was issued after internal deliberations for two days.
“Every word in the statement was reviewed and re-reviewed. We avoided mentioning the United Nations resolutions (on Kashmir that calls for a referendum). Hurriyat has always been for resolution of the Kashmir dispute through democratic means,” said a senior separatist leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The separatist leader added that Hurriyat understands the import of the announcement halting operations in the Valley and also the import of the Indo-Pak decision to re-emphasise the 2003 ceasefire at the Line of Control and the International Border.
In Delhi, Sitharaman said there had been no U-turn in the government’s approach to Kashmir or its policy towards Pakistan.
“We shall keep our borders safe. We shall be alert and we will ensure that no unprovoked attack goes without a response.” she added.
Sitharaman was responding to a question on mounting tensions despite both armies agreeing to implement the 2003 border truce. She said the government’s stand was clear that terror and talks with Pakistan cannot go on “hand in hand.”
“They can’t go on simultaneously.”
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