Kashmiri separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference on Tuesday remained non-committal about the latest offer of talks by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the government should change its approach and look into the root of the problem in the border state.
While making it clear that the Hurriyat was committed to a meaningful dialogue with the Centre, chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the outfit was disappointed by the 'circuitous approach' adopted by the prime minister while inviting groups other than mainstream political parties for talks.
"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves," Farooq said.
"We were hoping that there will be a direct offer for talks rather than taking a circuitous route. Kashmir is a political problem and we have to find a political solution. There can be no military solution to the Kashmir issue," Mirwaiz told PTI while responding to Dr Singh's fresh offer for talks with groups which shun violence.
"We all realise that 60 years have gone by and the problem is still unaddressed. We have to dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves," he said, suggesting that the government should make some headway in implementing a four-point programme mooted by the amalgam. The four points suggested by the Hurriyat include a commitment for upholding human rights, gradual demilitarisation and repeal of 'black laws'.
"Let us accept the fact that Kashmir is a problem and together India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir have to sit and resolve the issue. We all have to come together and reach a solution," he said.
He said that while it was a positive sign that the Singh has reached out to Pakistan from the soil of Kashmir, "I feel that he has not reached out to the people of Kashmir. We were expecting that he would be more open in his efforts to reach out to the people of Kashmir and say yes, we need to find a solution to the Kashmir issue."
In reply to a question on whether the amalgam was expecting a direct offer for talks, he said, "Yes, I was hoping that he will make a direct offer for talks with the Hurriyat Conference."
"The initiative has to be taken by the prime minister by announcing certain measures on the ground to give Kashmiris some relief. It is not a big deal what we are asking for," the Hurriyat chairman said, adding they were seeking "repeal of black laws, gradual demilitarisation and commitment to uphold human rights. "I think if these are addressed by the government, a conducive atmosphere can be created and all the parties should start talking," the Mirwaiz said.
On the prime minister's offer for talks with all those groups who shun the path of violence, he said, "We have not heard this for the first time that the government is ready to talk with groups which shun violence. We are a political group and so we were hoping that he will be more open and say that people who have a different view other than the mainstream political parties can come forward."
"We have engaged in the past but no breakthrough has been arrived at. But there is no other option available other than coming together to resolve the issue," the Hurriyat leader said.
The Mirwaiz said they were committed to meaningful and constructive dialogue on Kashmir with all the parties and will engage in "triangular method (holding talks with India and Pakistan separately)." He said the Hurriyat was hoping that the prime minister would be more open on human rights issues "but unfortunately, there was not much emphasis on that."
Chairman of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani also responded coldly to the fresh offer of talks by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing the Centre of not being serious about resolving the Kashmir issue. "We are not against talks but it would be like making fun of the martyrs if we sit with Indian leaders for mere photo sessions. History of past 63 years is witness that Indian rulers have not shown seriousness to resolve Kashmir issue", Geelani said reacting to the fresh offer of talks made by the prime minister on Monday.
The firebrand separatist also disapproved of the manner the Prime Minister made the offer, saying, "Prime Minister referred to talks in a manner as if he was obliging Kashmiris and doling audience to some people."
Geelani alleged that the Centre engages Kashmiri leadership in talks just to change the status of Kashmir issue and give an impression to the world that it "is not an international issue but an internal problem of India."
"Tables were decorated 130 times in the past but no breakthrough was achieved because of rigidity of India," he said referring to the outcome of earlier talks. Asking the prime minister to read the writing on the wall, he said, "The unprecedented strike observed during your visit should serve as an eye-opener. You must have observed that there was a silence of graveyard, air was closed, mobile services remained suspended and people's movement restricted. You must have felt that you are not in any part of India but have come to other place, where you were shown 500 faces who are working on your salary and who have no concern for Kashmiris - whether they live or die," he said.
"Indian leaders should see the ground realities and the entire Kashmiri nation should not be held hostage for few hundred people. They (leadership of the country) should listen to the voice of heart and soul of Kashmiris who are up in arms against Indian military occupation", Geelani said.
About PM's remarks against human rights violations, Geelani said, "Manmohan Singh referred to the human rights violations in a manner as if a minor incident has taken place whereas Indian forces are implementing a pre-planned genocide of Kashmiris.
Innocent people are being killed in fake encounters and buried in unmarked graves", he said. Noting that the Prime Minister did not refer to the term "state terrorism" during his visit, the Hurriyat hardliner said, he gave an impression that "common people were getting killed accidentally while fighting terrorism."