The Centre’s announcement of a team of three interlocutors to listen to all shades of public opinion in Kashmir and report back to it has come as a bit of an anti-climax. The three are Dilip Padgaokar, a senior journalist, M M Ansari, Central Information Commission member, and Radha Kumar, an academic from Jamia Millia Islamia. Their appointment was part of the eight-point package formulated after the recent visit of an all-party team to Kashmir. The idea was to widen the communication channels with civil society and get inputs from all sections of people. This, it was felt, would give the nation a better view of the reality in Kashmir and help the government make appropriate changes in its Kashmir policy.
But the composition of the team has disappointed many. There was expectation that the interlocutors would be well-known persons with very high credentials. There is nothing wrong or negative about any of the three members who have been named. But the team has the appearance of an academic study group. It is likely that the government wanted it to be a low-profile team, though it has been seriously “entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of J&K to understand their problems and chart a course of the future’’. A team of public intellectuals with an open mind and no negative baggage may be better than bureaucrats and persons identified with strong and extreme positions. One committee member has already made it clear that the team has a forward-looking agenda, unconstrained by the past.
But the team will be seriously handicapped by the absence of political representation in it. The situation in Kashmir has many aspects and dimensions, but it is primarily political and any engagement with it would not be complete if a political sensibility is not involved in it. Union home minister P Chidambaram has said that the members have a political ‘persona’ but their ability to understand politics is no substitute for the knowledge, experience and talents a politician can bring into play. The separatists have predictably rejected the team but this need not be a setback to its working. It might still be able to talk to them in the coming months. But, for the best results, it should have an intelligent, mature politician with the power of empathy as a member.