Srinagar, Sep 20 : Demands ranging from restoration of autonomy to withdrawing all security forces from Jammu and Kashmir were made to the all party delegation headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram as top leaders of PDP and the separatist factions kept away.
But small teams of the delegation reached out to the separatists by meeting their leaders at their residence where they were given their frank views.
The 42-member delegation that included BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and Gurudas Dasgupta embarked on a two-day visit to the state to assess the ground situation against the backdrop of unabated unrest that has claimed over 100 lives in the last three months.
There has also been a strong demand for withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act from NC, PDP and other sections in the state. At the outset, Chidambaram promised the people of the state that their future, honour and dignity are secure as part of India.
"We hope and believe that the honour, dignity and future of Kashmiris are secure as part of India," he said promising a patient hearing to the people of Kashmir. The delegation met representatives of mainstream political parties like the ruling National Conference and Congress and opposition PDP besides that of trade associations.
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti chose not to meet the delegation but sent a 15-member team which asked the Centre to come out with "out of box solutions" for resolving the Kashmir issue. Mehbooba accused the state government of repressive measures and trying to hijack the delegation.
The National Conference team which was headed by state Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather demanded restoration of autonomy that existed prior to 1953 as the best solution to resolve the Kashmir issue.
The moderate faction of Hurriyat and JKLF sent a joint memorandum to the delegation demanding setting up of Kashmir committees in India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.
Hardline Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani neither went to meet the delegation nor sent any memorandum. Five members of the delegation including Yechury and Asaduddin Owaisi went to his residence where the 80-year old leader bluntly aired his separatist views.
Geelani told them normalcy cannot be restored in Jammu and Kashmir unless the security forces are withdrawn and New Delhi recognises Kashmir as a dispute.
"Discuss the question of Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute. It is not an integral part of India," he said when Yechury pleaded for restoration of normalcy with the separatist leader who has been one of the key players in the three-month long agitation by issuing periodic calendars of protests.
Two other teams of the delegation met Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF leader Yasin Malik separately to know their views. Neither of the two ministers--Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal-- were part of the teams which met the separatists.
Senior CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta told the Mirwaiz that separatists should drop the demand for 'Azadi' and discussions can be held on any other issue.
Farooq, who wore a black band around his arm when he met the team members, bluntly responded by saying that "sentiments of the people of Kashmir" could not be "negated". "You have to accept the reality that Kashmir is a dispute and India, Pakistan and Kashmiris should together resolve it," he said.
The Hurriyat leader said there could be no movement till there is consensus on basic issues and people of Kashmir should be given right to choose. PTI