Srinagar, Apr 20: After months of efforts to break the ice with separatists, Centre's interlocutors on Kashmir today met former Hurriyat Chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari, a move which irked the moderate faction which suspended him from the amalgam.
“This morning we met Ansari at his residence to discuss ways and means to carry forward the dialogue process that would lead to a peaceful settlement in Jammu and Kashmir,” chief of the three-member interlocutors' team Dileep Padgaonkar told reporters here.
He said the discussion, lasting a little over an hour, was conducted in a cordial and constructive spirit.
“Maulana Ansari informed us that he favoured talks with the government to arrive at such a settlement. The dialogue had to be held at an appropriate level with representatives of separatist groups and in the presence of the interlocutors appointed by the Centre,” Padgaonkar said.
However, within minutes after the news came out about the meeting, Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq announced suspension of its constituent Itehad-ul-Muslimeen (IuM) party.
“We have suspended IuM for violating the Hurriyat decision on meeting the interlocutors appointed by Government of India,” Mirwaiz told PTI.
Briefing about their meeting with Ansari, Padgaonkar said Ansari emphasized that perceptible changes on the ground was required to inculcate a spirit of trust in the people of the state.
“Towards this end, he urged that the talks with the government should initially focus on the four point agenda of the moderate Hurriyat. The talks would cover the steps already taken by the government in this regard and the further steps that required to be taken to create a conducive atmosphere for subsequent discussions,” he added.
The IuM is among the founder constituents of Hurriyat conference and one of the seven parties which have representatives in the highest decision making body, the Executive Committee.
The Mirwaiz said the suspension will remain in force till the next meeting of the executive body of the amalgam which is likely to take place sometime next week.
“Although IuM is represented by Ansari's son, Maulana Masroor Abbas Ansari, in the Hurriyat meetings, the party is a member of the amalgam and should have abided by the Hurriyat decision,” he said.
Padgaonkar said Ansari hoped that the centre would allow the Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan to persuade the authorities there as well as leaders in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to take them on board to work for a settlement that would satisfy all stakeholders.
Ansari has agreed to meet the interlocutors again to ensure that the dialogue process would be a sustained one, he said adding this alone would ensure that incremental progress is made for reaching a political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir within a specified time frame.
Responding to questions, he said the interlocutors did not knock on the door of the separatist leader but the meeting was arranged by “mutual friends”.
He also admitted that slain Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees Chief Moulvi Showkat Ahmad Shah had met the interlocutors but the meeting was largely focussed on his educational ventures which included setting up of a university.
Padgaonkar said the interlocutors were willing to meet the separatist leadership in Kashmir at any place and any time but they will not go to meet them uninvited.
“We have expressed our willingness to meet them anywhere and at any time. It is now for them to decide,” he said.
Ansari was the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference when hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani engineered a vertical split in the amalgam for the failure of the leadership to run an effective boycott campaign in the 2002 Assembly elections.
On the need for including Pakistan in the efforts to find a solution to Kashmir problem, Padgaonkar said there is a renewed engagement between India and Pakistan and it has been welcomed by people in Jammu and Kashmir. PTI