Srinagar: Observing that “dialogue should go on”, the Supreme Court of India on Friday asked the Kashmir High Court Bar Association to play its role by taking the ‘first step’ in initiating talks with stakeholders in Kashmir.
Hearing a plea by the lawyers’ body seeking a ban on the use of pellet guns in the Valley, a division bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar asked the KHCBA to hold talks with stakeholders and come out with workable suggestions on the next date of hearing on May 9.
As the hearing started, senior lawyer Zaffar Shah and KHCBA president Mian Abdul Qayoom referred to their response filed before the court that uninterrupted, time-bound, unconditional and sincere dialogue “between and among all the stakeholders is the only means to put an end to the cycle of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“Continued discussions among the stakeholders should not be subject to changes in the political executive. It has to be institutionalised and should be result oriented,” the counsel said. As on date, they said, the process of dialogue among the stakeholders has become frozen.
What Bar said
Anger, resentment against status quo and uncertainty has been expressed almost by every generation in one form or the other.
To deal with civil uprising occurring almost every year, government of India, state government enacts laws instead of addressing fundamental issues. Hundreds of people right after 1947 were either killed or jailed or maimed for life.
In crowd control mechanism, the state adopts various measures which are lethal.
In 2010, 98 civilians were killed by the forces from July 8 up to 31 December 2016 with bullets or pellets.
India and Pakistan never lived as good neighbours because of Kashmir
Frequent fighting on the borders, killing people on both sides.
“It is, therefore, in the hands of the Government of India and the leadership of India to initiate the dialogue process. The earlier it is done, the better it would be for all,” the Bar said, emphasising that till the Kashmir issue is settled peacefully, “killing, blinding and maiming of innocent people has to stop forthwith and the impunity granted to the forces has to be withdrawn.”
The division bench, also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, responded by asking the lawyers’ body to play its role.
“We responded by submitting that what role we can play? All the leaders are caged. Syed Ali Geelani is under house arrest and not allowed to move outside for the past several years. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, too, is often kept under house arrest and has not been allowed even to offer prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid on a number of Fridays. Yaseen Malik is frequently arrested and kept in Central Jail, released momentarily and re-arrested and lodged in jail again. Release them all,” Qayoom told Kashmir Reader over phone from New Delhi.
“We also asked the bench to ban pellet guns. In reply, the Chief Justice asked us that suppose we ban it for fifteen days, what you will do in response? We said we are the Bar Association and can only play a persuasive role. We said that when talks were held in 2004 with almost all Hurriyat leaders, what is stopping them today? Why have they closed all channels of dialogue? In 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani had no reservation in dialogue but presently it seems the policy of Government of India is to kill people as they have sent 5 lakh pellets and thousands of more troops,” Qayoom said.
He said that he submitted before the bench that talks should be “unconditional and not within Indian Constitution. The Government of India must stop pellet horror.”
To this, the bench, according to wire news agency PTI, responded: “There shall be suggestions and dialogue as even if suggestions are rejected, the dialogue should go on.”
Qayoom said the lawyers’ body has been asked to come up with a response “so that the court can proceed further in the matter.”
“We told the Supreme Court not to see pellets in isolation and as only a symptom of the Kashmir issue, which is pending resolution from the past seventy years,” he said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi objected to the stand taken by the Bar Association on involving resistance leaders in the talks. Rohatgi read out the part of the affidavit in which the Bar Association had raised questions about the accession of Kashmir and mentioned names of resistance leaders who were under house arrest or behind bars.
“The case of the Bar here is different but he (lawyers of the Bar) talks about Geelani and separatists (resistance leaders). What is this going on? Ten times he says release them…,” the attorney general said as the bench interrupted him and clarified it has not accepted or entertained such arguments for pre-conditions for dialogue.
“Did we agree?” the bench asked the top law officer.
Rohatgi told the court that the process of dialogue should take place in accordance with rules and “if the rules allow, then the separatists can be released and if not, they won’t be”.
While Rohatgi was taking a hard stand, the bench interrupted him and said it was only trying to facilitate the dialogue process, and if there were any reservations on this endeavour, it can stop the matter. “If you feel the court has no role and if you feel we have no jurisdiction, we will close the file at this moment,” the bench said, adding that both the parties would have to take a joint step.
The bench again clarified that the first step has to come from the lawyers’ association.
“The first foot forward has to come from you (Bar). This is the last opportunity and you have to play an important role. You will have to come forward. If you take a first step, you will be remembered forever in history,” the bench told the counsel representing the lawyers’ body.
(with inputs from PTI)