SRINAGAR, Dec 05: Government of India’s representative to J&K Dineshwar Sharma managed to meet at least two Hurriyat leaders during his second visit to Kashmir last week,The Economic Times reported on Tuesday.
Sharma drove to the residence-cum-office of Abdul Gani Bhat in WazirBagh Srinagar on November 27 at around 10:30 pm in Srinagar where another Hurriyat leader was present during the meeting, which went on for around an hour, according to sources in the state government.
The meeting assumes significance as the joint Hurriyat leadership led by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik have stayed away from the dialogue initiative, claiming the exercise was a ‘waste of time’, and questioned the sincerity of New Delhi.
The government, however, was desperately trying to expand the scope of the exercise and make it more credible by including the Hurriyat leaders, influential businessmen and civil society members, who till now have refrained from participating.
Bhat is part of Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz, however, since the trio joined hands in 2016, most of the constituents of Mirwiaz led Huriyat including Bhat’s Muslim Conference, have stayed away from its public functions or core group meetings.
When asked about the meeting, Bhat refused to talk about his engagement with Sharma, but quickly added that his party – the Muslim Conference — was principally in favour of dialogue and “open to meet anybody who seeks a dialogue on Kashmir, including Sharma”.
“Our doors are open for dialogue. Why shouldn’t we talk to people? We do it with pressmen. We do it sometimes with members of a delegation. We did it with Yashwant Sinha? Why not with some other people who come to see us? We feel that till the time Pakistan is not involved, there will be no breakthrough,” Bhat told ET over phone.
Whenever Hurriyat has engaged in a dialogue process in any form, Bhat has remained a pivotal figure and has been a votary of ‘consistent engagement’ despite the prevailing situation on the ground.
“India and Pakistan should engage in dialogue, that’s where the key lies. While talking to Pakistan, India should talk to Kashmiris and Pakistan should also talk to Kashmiris,” said Bhat.
During his second visit to the state from November 24 to 29, Sharma first visited Jammu and then met delegations in the volatile districts of Pulwama and Anantnag in south Kashmir. “It was a good visit,” Sharma told ET, but he neither confirmed nor denied meeting Hurriyat leaders.
On October 23, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government appointed Sharma as special representative to J&K to carry out sustained dialogue and talk to all stakeholders to understand and address legitimate concerns of the people of the state.
The appointment of Sharma is the fourth initiative of New Delhi since 2002 to send interlocutors to the state to solve the political issue. Former Union minister KC Pant-led dialogue initiative was followed by the appointment of NN Vohra, who is the current governor of the state and then UPA-II formed a three-member group comprising former bureaucrat MM Ansari, academician Radha Kumar and late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar. However, the governments that appointed them never acknowledged their reports publicly.