The Centre's interlocutors on Jammu & Kashmir are hopeful of the separatist Hurriyat Conference joining the dialogue process.

“So far we are satisfied what we have been doing to break the ground on many issues by meeting common people who air the real views from governance to democracy,” one of the interlocutors, Radha Kumar, toldThe Hindu. “Obviously we need to do a lot more for implementing what we think is necessary to build confidence among the people.”

On a visit here along with the other interlocutors, Dileep Padgaonkar and M.M. Ansari, Professor Kumar said they had had useful meetings with a cross-section of the people in Pulwama and Budgam districts. “We are now reviewing what we have done so far and where we stand,” she said when asked about the interim report they would be giving to the Home Ministry.

“Situation better”

On the situation in Kashmir, she said that compared to last year, “it looks better” but “nothing can be predicted….. This is, however, a fact that there has been no major abuse of human rights.”

Professor Kumar noted that an important shift had taken place in Kashmir's politics in the past few months. Citing a rather “bold response” to Jamiat Ahla Hadees chief Moulana Showkat's killing in April from the moderate Hurriyat Conference and the JKLF, she said, “it is significant to see that people want truth to come out.” She referred to an earlier statement of the Hurriyat leaders Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone, who had talked about the killing of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone in a more belligerent way. “The Hurriyat also constituted a fact-finding team. It is a welcome step towards a change,” she said. “This reflects a courageous step.”

Citing Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's statement on Wednesday, Professor Kumar said this change in thinking and strategy “could bring them [the Hurriyat] to the [negotiation] table. So far we had been talking about governance and strengthening of democratic institutions. The way people voted in the panchayat elections signifies that they still have faith in these institutions. Now it is time to set the course for discussion on political settlement.”

Consensus needed

Professor Kumar said, “We are ready to talk to anyone and separatists surely are stakeholders in the process. They should come forward and talk”.