Even as the group of three recently appointed interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir prepares to visit the State soon for beginning a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people, hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Thursday gave a call for their boycott.
Describing the exercise as a ploy of the government to gain time, Mr. Geelani said there was “no sincerity” towards finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem.
“I am announcing from the platform of this convention on Kashmir that nobody should meet the interlocutors when they visit the State. Do they not know what people in Kashmir want? What will these interlocutors do in their one-year-long mandate? They want to meet students, shopkeepers and everyone else but what do they want to know?”
The Hurriyat leader was speaking at “Convention on Kashmir – Azadi: The only Way,” organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) here. The five-hour-long convention also saw Maoist ideologue and Telangana poet, Varavara Rao, and Booker Prize winner and writer Arundhati Roy express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir in their fight for justice and right to self-determination.
Frequent interruptions, sloganeering and noisy protests by a section of the audience, including some Kashmiri Pandits, who were objecting to the presence of the separatist leader on the dais, marred the proceedings. The protesters, shouting slogans like Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram, created ruckus at the convention. They were finally taken out by police. A large number of Kashmiri youth and their supporters countered them with slogans like “We want freedom.”
Mr. Geelani's boycott call came amidst indications that the interlocutors were planning their maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir on October 23. The interlocutors — eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, noted academician Radha Kumar and Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari — are likely to visit the State for a week. The group, which met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, is likely to meet BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on Friday.
The veteran Hurriyat leader said dialogue had been held for 150 times since March 23, 1952 but without yielding any result. “It has been a failure. We are for dialogue but then India should give up its stand of repeating that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral of India,” he said.
Referring to his five-point formula announced in August, the separatist leader said it had included demands like recognising that Kashmir was an international problem, release of detenus and pulling out of armed forces but added that it was meant only to start the process towards building a conducive atmosphere for holding dialogue and was not a solution in itself.
“The core issue of Kashmir has to be addressed through tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The Hurriyat leader said the right to self-determination was the “fundamental right” of the people of Kashmir, who included all those living in the Jammu and Ladakh regions — be they Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus. “No amount of suppression and deployment of armed forces can crush the sentiment of Azadi and right to self-determination of Kashmiri people.”
He said it was a “good sign” that people in other parts of the country were raising their voice in support of Kashmiri people and their struggle.
Ms. Roy called for forging a united platform of people who were involved in their own struggles for justice in different regions of the country.
“You have to look for tactical, political and intellectual alliances and think about justice, otherwise you will be like fish swimming in a tank with strong walls and ultimately getting tired,” she said.
Ms. Roy said she did not want young people in Kashmir to be let down even by their own leaders. She said the idea of justice linked struggles of people in Nagaland, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa to the people of Kashmir.