Kashmir civil society urges President to initiate dialogue

Kashmir civil society urges President to initiate dialogue

Kashmir civil society urges President to initiate dialogue

A civil society group in Jammu and Kashmir has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, seeking a "direct dialogue" with all stakeholders, including separatists, besides advocating repeal of laws like AFSPA and ban on use of pellet guns as confidence building measures for starting talks.

While advocating direct dialogue, the group has dismissed Track II initiatives, saying such processes have rarely yielded any results.

In a five-page letter to the President, the group comprising former bureaucrats, judges, top police officials, journalists and educationists sought his intervention to impress upon the Centre to hold talks for resolution of the "Kashmir dispute".

"We...implore and beseech Your Excellency, to impress upon the Government of India to initiate and announce direct, immediate, purposeful and result oriented dialogue with all the stakeholders especially those with whom such dialogue has been held in 2004 and 2007 for a lasting solution of 'Kashmir Dispute' within a reasonable time frame," the group said in the letter sent to the President yesterday.

"We sincerely believe that a lasting solution of the dispute through dialogue with all the stakeholders would be in the interest of people of the subcontinent in general and people of Jammu and Kashmir in particular," they said.

The group also said that Track II initiative have rarely yielded any results.
"The experience teaches us that, Track II initiatives are time consuming, rarely yield any results and therefore not an option. Direct dialogue is the only way forward.An open dialogue with the representatives of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realisation of political aspirations, without questioning the legitimacy of the leadership, is imperative.

"A confusion, grossly misplaced, is being created regarding the identity of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realisation of political aspirations and therefore required to be associated with the proposed talks," they said.

The civil society members said previous central governments headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had held dialogue at the highest level with important stakeholders.

"The Government of India should resume that process by restarting dialogue at that level and follow it up by broad based institutional mechanisms for a holistic and lasting solution," they said while seeking a dialogue with all the stakeholders without any preconditions.

"Once the Prime Minister has signified his intention to initiate dialogue within the ambit of Insaniyat, a concept higher than any law and even Constitution, for a lasting solution of the dispute, there is no reason to make dialogue subject to any conditions," it said.

The civil society said "a meaningful dialogue" will also help in moving towards a "harmonious and dignified return of all the persons displaced because of conflict, to their native places".

While making an effort to settle the dispute, they said the focus should not remain merely on financial packages or administrative interventions.

The 'Kashmir dispute', the group said is a political dispute.
"The dispute has its roots also in failure of India and Pakistan to carry forward dialogue contemplated under Tashkent Declaration of 1966, Shimla Agreement 1972, and bilateral talks held from time to time.The dispute, over the years, has consumed lives of thousands of people, left thousands orphans and widows, without a source of sustenance. Thousands have disappeared leaving behind, old aged parents, half widows and half orphans," they said.

The group highlighted that the Government of India has been spending billions of rupees on acquisition of military hardware and maintenance of more than half a million troops and para-military forces in the State.

"The dispute has, triggered arms race and, lately, nuclear proliferation in the subcontinent, making the State a nuclear flash point, threatening the security of the entire sub-continent. This leads to misallocation of precious and scarce resources, and perpetuates the state of poverty for the teeming millions, living below the poverty line.

"India and Pakistan have fought four wars over the dispute and the two countries, with nuclear arsenal, cannot any more afford to get entangled in an armed conflict," they said.

In an apparent snub to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the group said the impression sought to be created that only five per cent of the population is associated with the movement is "misleading" and "belied" by the situation on ground.

"The current movement is a mass uprising and not the handiwork of a few people," the group felt.

The civil society suggested a few measures to be taken for creating an atmosphere conducive for a successful dialogue including repeal of laws like AFSPA, Public Safety Act and Disturbed Areas Act.

They also called for reducing the footprints of army, para-military forces and security forces, especially, in civilian areas.

"Relocate such forces and make Jammu and Kashmir Police and Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police responsible for maintenance of law and order," the group said.

They also demanded an immediate ban on the use of pellet guns.
The signatories to the letter include former chairman of Public Service Commission Muhammad Shafi Pandit, former judge of J&K High Court Hasnain Masoodi, former Chief Information Commissioner G R Sufi, former Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University Abdul Wahid, founder Vice Chancellor of SKUAST Hashmatullah Khan.

Other signatories include Editor-in-Chief of Greater Kashmir Fayaz A Kaloo, artist Masood Hussain, former Chairman J&K Bank Munshi Ghulam Hassan, former Advocate General Reyaz A Jan, and Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin.

The group also demanded appointment of a Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court to inquire into all civilian killings, "grievous hurt" caused by security forces and police firing, other crowd control measures, and nocturnal raids, damage to movable and immovable property during raids, on and after July 8 till the Commission initiates its proceedings, and to fix responsibility.

The Inquiry Commission should also determine compensation to be paid to the dependants of the deceased and each of the victims, and the persons whose property was damaged during nocturnal, they said

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