All people should adopt a realistic approach to finding a solution to the Kashmir problem, and the solution should be acceptable to all parts of the State, including those under Pakistan's control (PoK), Dileep Padgaonkar, who leads the panel of interlocutors, said on Wednesday.
Before winding up the team's four-day maiden visit to the Kashmir Valley, he said it was a huge task to take all stakeholders in the country on board in the dialogue process. The beginning of the team's “mission” was “baby steps” in a long process, and Parliament should also be taken on board as it represented the country's political opinion. “That is not an easy task, I believe.”
Mr. Padgaonkar told journalists that he, and the other members of the team, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari, met a cross-section of society and gained insight into the problems faced by the people such as curbs on their movement and how the people wanted the (dialogue) process to go on. “It was a valuable insight in order to jump on the road to find a comprehensive and permanent solution…” But he cautioned that nothing major would happen so quickly; the process had to be taken forward slowly. The interlocutors headed to Jammu, where they will hold talks for two days. Then they will make the first set of recommendations that will be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Asked what could be the priority in the recommendations, Mr. Padgaonkar said: “The issue of release of political prisoners and stone-throwers and the lifting of curfew will be among the top priorities in the short term.” The interlocutors met a number of militants lodged in the Central Jail. He believed that peaceful assembly and protests should be allowed in the Valley.
As for his remarks that Pakistan had to be involved in the process, he felt satisfied with the way BJP MP Ram Jethmalani had come to his defence. Mr. Padgaonkar was a member of the Jethmalani-headed Kashmir Committee which had worked for dialogue for several years.
Without naming Mr. Jethmalani, Mr. Padgaonkar said: “A senior member had broken away from his party and supported my line.”
“The fact that Parliament passed a resolution [for getting back the territory of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistan's control] makes Pakistan a party.” Ideally, a solution should be acceptable to the people from all parts of the State. Asked why the team did not meet separatists, Mr. Padgaonkar said: “We are always ready when they decide.” But the invitation should come from them, he asserted.
The members are planning to visit district headquarters too. Ms. Radha Kumar said that by visiting towns “we will be able to make an assessment whether the bunkers of security forces, and their larger presence, are needed.”
“This is just the beginning of our work, and we can go by the requirements of the situation, but one thing is clear: we are open to talks with any section of society since our objective is to hear the peoples,” she said.