Editorial: The Interlocutor’s Role

Srinagar: The centre’s new interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma is in Kashmir for his second visit. He has continued his interactions with the people. This time, however, he did two things different – albeit inconsequential in their import. He went to Jammu first and held talks with the Kashmiri Pandits and the West Pakistan Pakistan refugees.

He visited Jagti area, the largest township of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, and met people there. He also visited several Pandit households to understand their problems. Another stop was Talwara camp where he met militancy-affected people of Jammu region. Sharma also took stock of the amenities at the camp. In Kashmir, he visited South Kashmir, the hotbed of the Valley’s turmoil. There he met some youth delegations.

The issues that have been raised in these meetings are of administrative nature, something that the state government is competent enough to do at its own level. Days before his second visit, the state government on the recommendations of the home ministry decided to grant amnesty to around 4500 first-time stone pelters. The home ministry, in turn, had been urged by Sharma to take this step. While the move will go some way to help the interlocutor’s image, this is hardly what the Valley expects from him – if at all there is any expectation.  People in Kashmir are inclined to suspect that the political initiatives like the one led by Sharma and before him by the three members group of the interlocutors led by the late Dilip Padgaonkar  are little more than an adhoc measure to respond to a specific situation in Kashmir, almost an end in themselves.

The reason for this is that the people attribute a much larger  role to the interlocutor. He is expected to address the political problem in Kashmir – or set up a process that leads to such an end. Resolving administrative grievances of the various interest groups will hardly make any difference and on the contrary it only detracts from the authority of the state government to take such decisions. So while amnesty to youth is welcome, people didn’t expect the measure to be announced on the urging of the interlocutor. Kashmir certainly expected him to play a role in the release of the political prisoners, something Sharma has declined to do. So here is the difference. While the former relates to the governance of the state, the latter is connected to the lingering political conflict over the state.   

 Unless New Delhi upgrades the mandate of Sharma to take on the larger political dimension of Kashmir issue, little is going to change. The aspects of development, governance and regional grievances can best be left to the state government to be sorted out. True, Kashmir problem has a layered reality within the state with an inherent conflict among the regions and within the regions themselves, but this is not what triggers intermittent unrest and the violence in the state.


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