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PUCL Bulletin, October 2006

No going back from peace talks in Jammu and Kahmir

-- By Rajindar Sachar

The shameful, condemnable terrorist attack on the Srinagar Rally on 21st May to stall the peace talks between India and Pakistan has rightly been defused by the Prime Minister's courageous and immediate response that notwithstanding this dastardly attack, the talks with the various J&K leaders fixed in Srinagar will continue. Of course, it also somewhat calls for a more incisive looking into the attitude of Pakistan to these attacks. It is also a matter of concern that our security forces and intelligence agencies should have been taken totally by surprise.

There were too many coincident instances of gruesome tragedies happening on this day, i.e. 21st May previously which was a day when Maulvi Mohd. Farooq, father of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was shot dead by two assassins at Srinagar. Aabdul Ghani Lone, Chairman of People's Conference, was shot dead at the Moulvi's commemorative rally with the background intelligence agencies and security forces should have taken more secure steps.

The newspaper reports that all this mayhem was carried out by just couple of terrorists dressed in police uniform makes one wonder as to what kind of a security and intelligence is done at a meeting which was to be addressed by top leaders including the Chief Minister of the State. Surely, at such a meeting the police and security personnel to be on duty must have some special identity indicator to find out whether some intruders has not entered the security cordon. From reports in the press it appears that the terrorists dressed in police uniform spraying bullets at random without any obstruction and as a matter of fact was helped even by a random public person assuming he was a police personnel. Of course the probe will follow. But let us be clear that some more solid, concrete measures will have to be evolved to prevent these kind of tragic incidents because it is no doubt that such vicious armed attacks do strain the credibility of Indo-Pak parleys.

The talks between the Prime Minister and the J&K leaders have assumed further significance because of this gruesome attack. The Hurriyat had been publicly showing its insensitivity about its having talks with the Prime Minister. The present attack gave an opportunity to Hurriyat and leaders like Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah to react more substantially than mere taking cover under an excuse that talks are taking place with other political parties and groups and not exclusively with the Hurriyat and that there is no necessity for these leaders to participate in talks at Srinagar. Their refusal to participate has cast great doubt on their genuineness and commitment to peace process. It tends to suggest that possibly they are under some extraneous influence - an approach hardly befitting a group which purports to claim to be carrying on struggle for the dignity, self-respect and rights of the people of J&K.

Possibly, Hurriyat has worked-out this strategy with a view to presumptuously proclaim itself as a bigger and more exclusive group with whom alone Govt. of India is to come to settlement. May be, it is understandable that as for some time, the Govt. of India may continue to have talks separately with the Hurriyat and other leaders like Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah. But there should at least be a reciprocal courtesy by Hurriyat that when the Prime Minister is sitting with other representatives of J&K these organizations should also participate in it. Whether they participate actively by joining the deliberations or keep quite and just listen is their own choice. But I do believe that normal courtesy and protocol should be observed by Hurriyat and it should not pretend to arrogate to itself the right to highjack such vital talks on Kashmir by claiming an exclusive privilege to settle the matter and purporting to suggest as if it has the backing of Pakistan and General Musharraf.

Privilege of Indian Prime Minister and Gen. Musharraf to continue the peace talks belong exclusively to them. Of course they will necessarily decide their strategy and course of action in consultation with the people of J&K. But surely, Indian Govt. does not need any mediatory group to talk with Gen. Musharraf nor does the latter require the services of Hurriyat to talk frankly with Indian Prime Minister. The rapport and understanding between the Prime Minister and General is well-known.

Here was a real test for the Hurriyat and other leaders to show its mettle and to prove that it stands for a peaceful outcome of the J&K problem. It could only have been done by joining the talks as this would have sent a message to the militants that it condemns their action which is harmful to the interests of the people of J&K and that Hurriyat is willing to take on the onslaught by the militants and is not caving in by not joining the talks because of the fear from them.

Refusal by Hurriyat, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah to join the talks shows them as craven people who refuse to take on the fight against the militants. By this attitude, they run the risk of thoroughly disappointing their friends and well-wishers.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014