Srinagar: A member of the three-member Interlocutors Group appointed to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir by the former Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, policy analyst Radha Kumar, has said that the government of India (GoI) has attached too many red lines with the dialogue process, “which was an act of foolishness”.
“The dialogue has not even started, but there have [already] been too many red lines attached with the talks,” Radha told Kashmir Reader. “This is an act of foolishness. If the talks have to succeed, they need to be open.”
Reacting to former finance minister P Chidambaram’s recent remarks on autonomy in the context of J&K, minister in PMO Jitendra Singh has said that there was no Kashmir issue, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ruled out granting autonomy to J&K.
In October 2010, the GoI had appointed a group of three interlocutors that included Radha Kumar, senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar and former information commissioner M M Ansari to hold sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in the state.
Last month, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) -led government in Delhi appointed former Information Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks with all stakeholders in Kashmir. The pro-freedom groups have refused to talk to the interlocutor, saying the GoI does not recognise Kashmir as a dispute.
Questioning government move, Kumar asked if it was needed to appoint a new interlocutor when she along with other the two other panel members had already prepared a report to address the Kashmir issue. Ascribing the new appointment to political one-upmanship, Kumar said, “There was a new government in Delhi. We were appointed by the UPA. So it is obvious that our recommendations will not be implemented by the present government.”
She said that if the demand of autonomy was opposed by the BJP government, the UPA government too refused to implement the key political recommendations of the three interlocutors.
“I can’t imagine that our recommendations will be taken by this government. If the UPA was not ready to act on our recommendations, in that sense, why will the BJP government?” the former interlocutor asked.
She said the appointment of Sharma was a realisation that Delhi needed to talk to Kashmiris to address the Kashmir problem.
“In the last three-and-a-half years, the BJP government was stating that it will not talk to Kashmiris. Now they have started talking,” Kumar said.
“The new interlocutor will have to find ways of how he will manage talks with the people. How he will manage to talk to the alienated population?” she said.
“I know there are too many red lines. They are not even ready to discuss the autonomy proposal. But I do feel things will change in coming days. They will not attach conditions. Six months ago, they said they will not talk with the Hurriyat. But now the stand has changed. Dialogue and no dialogue can’t go together,” she added.
Kumar and the other two interlocutors had submitted their report to the then home minister P Chidambaram after touring all the 22 districts of the state and talking to people from a cross section of life, except the Hurriyat. While laying out the contents of the report, the interlocutors had discussed centre-state relations, region-state relations, and district-region and Panchayat relations besides recommending that the pre-1953 special status be restored in the state.
“I do feel that it would have been better to form a constitutional commission to go into all the elements of Article 370 to make it really workable. I am disappointed that the previous government did not do it. If they would have, it would have led us to the next step in the political process,” the former interlocutor said.
“Forget our report and working group reports, there is an urgent need to bring human rights and security reforms. Another thing is that it has to be accepted that Kashmir’s political status is unresolved and Article 370 is even temporary. The Kashmir issue has to be resolved. Resolution of Kashmir issue is a matter of life and death. And for the rest of the country, Kashmir is of national importance,” she added.
In response to a question on whether she thinks the appointment of the present interlocutor is a futile exercise when she too was involved in a similar attempt, Kumar said, “One thing which we need to understand is that wherever there has been a demand for right to self-determination, be it in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, or Catalonia, the solution is known for a very, very long time before all stakeholders come to an agreement.”
“In Northern Ireland, the dialogue was repeated a number of times, and it took 25 years to reach any conclusion. So the talks and the dialogue in Kashmir will continue to happen till parties will reach an agreement. It is tiring and boring, but this should happen.”