The prospects of putting a group of interlocutors in place for beginning the process of sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir brightened as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held separate meetings on Monday with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Government sources said that both Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Abdullah had one-on-one meetings with the Prime Minister and it is believed that the issue of appointing a group of interlocutors, under the chairmanship of an eminent person, figured in the discussions. A senior Congress leader may be picked to head the group which may have two or three members. The chairman of the group is likely to enjoy the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
Sources said the Chief Minister apprised the Prime Minister of the latest developments in Kashmir Valley, which is now witnessing a spell of peace after a three-month-long cycle of violence, stone-pelting, protests and strikes. Mr. Abdullah provided feedback to the Prime Minister about the eight-point initiative and economic aid which the Centre unveiled last month for the State after the visit of an all-party delegation to Srinagar and Jammu.
The Centre is also believed to be mulling the option of appointing a political person as the Governor, sources said. They pointed out that the troubled border State has not had a political person as Governor and the appointment of a politician was likely to give further boost to the Centre's eight-point peace initiative. The appointment of the group of interlocutors was also part of the initiative.
Sources indicated that most of the interlocutors would be from outside the State but they would have a fairly good idea about the issues in Jammu and Kashmir. The government is also said to be considering having a Muslim, a Hindu and a woman in the group of interlocutors.
Apart from Jammu, Leh and Srinagar, the interlocutors are expected to travel to smaller towns in the State like Baramulla, Anantnag, Sopore, Uri, Doda and Rajouri to interact with people.