Stating that the failure to punish those guilty of “killing civilians” would continue to be a threat to the fragile peace in Jammu and Kashmir, Member of Parliament and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat on Saturday said the government should come forward and have an unconditional dialogue with all the groups.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a two-day interaction between women delegates and the Centre's interlocutors, Ms. Karat said: “It was painful to hear about the gross violations of human and democratic rights in Kashmir. Since 2009, and particularly in 2010, the assurances made by the government to deliver justice have not been fulfilled and the utter failure in punishing the guilty has led to lack of confidence in the system. You cannot talk about calm because without justice it is fragile.”

Advocating quick delivery of justice, she said: “The beginnings of the justice process have to be in punishing those who were killing children, maiming them and throwing them in jails. After meeting the victim families I could feel that wounds are fresh because of lack of justice.”

Ms. Karat, along with other MPs, met families of the victims of last year's unrest here on Friday.

Women in Kashmir “have experienced more trauma than those in other parts of the country. They have to face it on a daily basis here,” Ms. Karat said, adding that they were caught in the crossfire between politics of the separatist, the security forces and the mainstream parties. “The fear of something happening anytime is the major source of trauma which they are unable to overcome.”Ms. Karat said that everyone “we spoke” to pointed out: “Kashmir is a political issue. And the government should open a direct and unconditional dialogue with all groups.”

Urging the government to revive talks with Pakistan, she said: “It is wrong on the part of the government to delay it in the name of waiting for a suitable time, to further deteriorate the situation at the cost of people in the State.”

Issues of women, who are refugees from Pakistan, need to be addressed on a humanitarian basis. “Similarly the issue of Kashmiri Pandits also needs attention,” she added.

Besides Ms. Karat, MPs Mabel Rebello, Shruti Chandra Gupta, Viplav Thakur, the Centre's interlocutors — Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar, and M.M. Ansari — and a number of women representatives from Jammu and Kashmir are attending the interaction which is not open to the media.

“This is essentially a political problem and a political discourse is a must. Kashmir is far better placed than my State, Jharkhand, where more than 75 per cent of people live below the poverty line,” Ms. Rebello said. She said a solution could be found within the framework of the Constitution.

Ms. Gupta, who is an MP from Bhiwani-Mahendragarh, said she was shocked to see the plight of the Kashmiri women. “I have been to Kashmir many a time, but this time I am here officially. Kashmiri women have gone through hell, devastation and what not.”

She said the party high command and the Prime Minister would be briefed about the plight of the Kashmiri women. “Women here need help and we will do our best to provide it to them.” Chairperson of the State Commission for Women Shamima Firdous said the interaction should have been organised in rural Kashmir. “The women there have suffered much at the hands of the security forces and the militants” she told The Hindu. “Our Chief Minister had said it in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi that Kashmir is a dispute, so we need to move forward in that direction,” said Ms. Firdous, who is a National Conference MLA from Habba Kadal.

Lawyer Narjees Nawab said she was unhappy with the way the interaction was being conducted. “It was minus the victim families, especially those whose loved ones are missing or have been killed by the forces. The meet more or less focused on the impact of the conflict. I demanded that the culprits be brought to book.” She, however, said the step taken by the interlocutors to organise such a conference was a good one. “However, the plight of women needs to be highlighted in a much broader perspective.” Ms. Radha Kumar said the interaction was being conducted to understand what women in the strife-torn State thought about the political settlement of the Kashmir issue. “I think their participation in any decision is a must. We haven't been able to get them on board. The conference is just a beginning. I don't know about the outcome but I am sure it will give women the confidence to speak on bigger platforms.”