The Centre on Wednesday named a group of three interlocutors to hold sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. They are, noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof. M. M. Ansari, Information Commissioner and Prof. (Mrs) Radha Kumar, trustee of Delhi Policy Group.
"The three interlocutors, appointed by the Government, have been entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to understand their problems and chart a course for the future," an official release said here.
It said that all the three interlocutors have done credible work in public life and bring with them significant understanding of political and economic issues, specially in context of Jammu and Kashmir. "The government hopes that after interacting with all shades of political opinion they will suggest a way forward that truly reflects the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, specially the youth," it said.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the three interlocutors would begin work as early as possible. "We may add one more interlocutor later," he said.
The decision to begin the sustained dialogue and appoint a group of interlocutors was taken on September 25 at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was part of the eight-point initiative announced by the Centre after an all-party parliamentary delegation, led by Mr. Chidambaram, visited Srinagar and Jammu on September 20 and 21.
The terms and references of the panel will be to hold talks all shades of opinion including political parties, groups, students, civil society, separatists and other stakeholders in all the three regions —Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir. Mr. Padgaonkar will chair the meetings of the group.
The Home Minister said the move to appoint the group of interlocutors was a clear demonstration of the seriousness of the government of India to find a solution to the Kashmir problem which has been there "for many, many years."
"I would appeal to all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir and all shades of political opinion to engage with the interlocutors so that we can move forward on the path of finding a solution to the problem," he told journalists here.
Asked why none of the interlocutors has a political background, he said all of them have a political persona and they have been in public life for long and were well known to the people of India.
"All of them are engaged in work which is in public domain and we think they are very credible people, people with a good track record and they can begin their work as early as possible and I am sure they will start their work as early as possible," Mr. Chidambaram said.
Mr. Padgaonkar, author and editor, has worked in various capacities in the journalistic field. He was Editor of the Times of India and is presently with the Asia Pacific Communications Private Limited. He was also part of the Kashmir Committee, led by former Union Minister and eminent lawyer Ram Jethamalani.
"We will chart out our course once all three of us meet together. But we will have to be future oriented and approach with an open mind and a big heart. We need to listen to the people who have suffered a lot and also talk to the younger generation and understand them better," Mr.Padgaonkar told The Hindu .
Mr. Padgaonkar said that recent statements of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi as well as members of the all party delegation that had visited Srinagar and Jammu would be taken up by the group. ``What is needed is a number of confidence building measures to be taken as quickly as possible,’’ he added.
Prof. Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, has been engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Prof. Ansari, who was professor and Director at the Hamdard University, is an educationist and economist before moving as an Information Commissioner. He has the background of an economic and education specialist and has served in several institutions in senior positions and provided research and consultancy service to various national and international organisations.