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Hurriyat miffed but UPA may have a point
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | September 16, 2004 23:12 IST
After being treated with kid gloves by the National Democratic Alliance government, the Hurriyat is now unhappy with the tough stand taken by ministers of the United Progressive Alliance government.
Maulana Abbas Ansari, former chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, has accused the central government of messing up the Kashmir situation and indirectly strengthening the hands of those forces opposed to peace talks.
The bitterness became evident when Ansari referred to the postponement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the state. "What would he have achieved by visiting the valley when nobody is prepared to talk to him? If all he wants is to visit Kashmir as a tourist, he could have done so," he said.
"It was a Congress government, which raised the Kashmir issue in the United Nations in 1948. Now again, it is a Congress government, which is further messing up the Kashmir problem by not inviting the Hurriyat for unconditional talks.
"If the talks are to be held within the framework of the Indian Constitution (as stated by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil), it means the Centre is not even prepared to say that Kashmir is a disputed issue or area. What is there to talk about?
"By shying away from (unconditional) talks, the Centre has strengthened the hands of those who said that the Hurriyat had sold Kashmir to the government of India. They have fallen into the trap of those wielding guns. These elements were all along telling us that the Indian government would never solve the Kashmir problem because it is not sincere. Now, this is becoming evident to everyone," he said.
He praised former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for initiating a peace process and appointing his deputy prime minister (L K Advani) to hold talks with the Hurriyat. Vajpayee had taken the stand that talks manavta ke aadar par hone chahiya (should be on the basis of humanitarian concerns).
The UPA government, however, is adamant that talks can be held only within the framework of the Constitution.
Ansari said the disruption has come as a shot in the arm for pro-Pakistan leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who disassociated himself from the APHC and now heads his own faction of the Hurriyat.
"Geelani had given a call for boycott of Manmohan Singh's visit. Fearing that the response would have been total, the government decided to cancel the prime minister's tour," he claimed.
[The prime minister cancelled the tour since the model code of conduct is in force in the state in view of by-elections. The code would have barred the prime minister from making announcements regarding policy, a special package for the state or inaugurate the Jammu-Udhampur rail line, which was on his itinerary]
"If the Hurriyat leaders feel that they are the true representatives of the people of Kashmir, then they should prove it by taking part in the elections rather then make tall claims, which cannot be verified.
"Even foreign governments, including the US, are now behind the Indian government's stand, particularly after the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly two years back in which 45% of the electorate chose to cast their voter.
"External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh has repeated stressed on this point during his interaction with mediapersons," he said.
This has to be seen in the context of the Congress being a partner in the Peoples Democratic Party-led coalition government in J&K. The PDP-Congress government's stand is that the Centre can talk to any Kashmiri group as long as it is taken into confidence and its concerns are addressed because it enjoys the confidence of the people.
The Congress-led UPA has good reasons not to follow in the footsteps of the NDA.
The September 1996 assembly elections had brought the National Conference to power but its government did not enjoy high credibility because only about 15% of the electorate had cast their votes. Hence, though the NC was supporting the NDA government at the Centre, the latter agreed to hold unconditional talks with the Hurriyat.
More reports from Jammu and Kashmir
Read about: The Road to Peace | Kargil Crisis