With a thick security blanket in place to enforce curfew, a 39-member all-party delegation on Monday began the task of assessing the situation in Kashmir by meeting representatives of political parties here.

Some of the delegates called on separatist leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Geelani, and moderates like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik.

The Mirwaiz, in a memorandum to the delegation, said: “Let the Government of India act on the suggestions given by the Kashmiris and facilitate to establish and empower an official body, a Kashmir Committee, consisting of senior representatives of all major Indian political parties to develop and enter into a process of engagement with the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Let this process be transparently designed to deliver a negotiated solution to the Kashmir issue that is mutually worked towards by and acceptable to all parties concerned.”

The delegation, headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, arrived here early in the morning and drove to the S.K. International Conference Centre (SKICC). Setting the tone for three-day deliberations, which will conclude in Jammu on Wednesday, Mr. Chidambaram told the visiting delegations that they were here to listen to their views and give them a patient hearing and reach out to the State people.

In a closed door session, leaders of the National Conference (NC), the Congress, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other smaller groups put forth their views on putting an end to the cycle of violence.

However, informed sources said most of the participants largely spoke about the resolution of the Kashmir issue and reaching out to the victims of excesses in the past three months.

State Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather, who headed the NC delegation, said: “We stressed on the restoration of autonomy as permanent solution to the Kashmir problem and also demanded that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be withdrawn and a dialogue process initiated. We did not expect immediate results.” He said the NC would not reconsider its alliance with the Congress.

Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz led the party delegation. “We stressed upon the unity of the State, which cannot be compromised at all. We also asked the all-party delegation to reach out to civil society in order to get the real feel of the situation,” he said.

The PDP delegation was led by its general secretary, Mohammad Dillawar Mir. Its senior leader and MLA, Nizamuddin Bhat, said the party was shocked as they could not get adequate time to express their ideas. “We only got 15 minutes and that was not enough.”

The PDP was even thinking of not meeting the all-party delegation as the government had “declared war on its own people by imposing 72-hour long curfew,” but “since we were part of a decision taken about it in Delhi, we were morally bound to come here.”

CPI(M) State secretary Y. Tarigami told the delegates: “The current crisis is the manifestation of aggregation of failed political approaches to resolve the basic problem. There has been failure to develop and evolve a sustainable, result-oriented dialogue process, debates and discussions aimed at resolving the main problem rather than dealing with its offshoots.”

Mr. Tarigami reminded Mr. Chidambaram of his various statements, including the one in which the latter termed Kashmir a “unique problem, which requires a unique solution.” He told the Minister that his statement needed to be implemented in letter and in spirit. “This approach needs to be carried forward and strengthened.”

“Cutting across the party lines and their respective positions vis-à-vis the Kashmir problem, Parliament is expected to address the Kashmir issue with the utmost seriousness. There could be difference of opinion, but that does not denote that Kashmir can be made a battleground for the conflicting political ideology at the cost of Kashmiris' genuine political aspirations,” he added.

(Click here for Full text of the joint memorandum)