Separatists maintain a studied silence

Updates from : The Hindu .

No consensus on accepting talks offer from New Delhi as the Mirwaiz meets Geelani

For the second consecutive day on Wednesday, separatists in Kashmir maintained a studied silence over any engagement with the Centre’s special representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

All top separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, have refused to comment on New Delhi’s initiative to hold unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders. However, at the same time, there is no statement issued by any separatist leader rejecting the talks offer.

Sources said that at a rare meeting of the Mirwaiz with Mr. Geelani at the latter’s residence, both “did share their stand on a number of issues, including engaging New Delhi and Islamabad for any dialogue process”. Sources privy to the meeting said any consensus over future talks “eluded the separatist leadership with varied opinions expressed by many”.

Sources close to the moderate Hurriyat said it believed that “the backdrop has changed compared with the 2004 initiative of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”

“This time it has to be a joint decision given the sentiment on the ground,” said Hurriyat sources.

The space for moderates to take an independent decision has shrunk compared with the previous offers made in 2004 and later by the United Progress Alliance (UPA) in 2009.

Public backlash

Sources said both the moderates and the hardliners of the Hurriyat factions fear a backlash from the public and militants, in case of “any hasty decision with no positive change on the ground”.

“Streets are more hardliner this time. Any decision has to be based on certain principles,” admitted a Hurriyat insider. Pakistan’s public stand, questioning New Delhi’s dialogue offer to separatists, has also put extra pressure.

“We expect an engagement. When and how remains a matter of spadework on both sides,” said a mainstream politician in the ruling party.

Senior PDP leader and MP Muzzafar Hussain Baig asked Hurriyat to participate in the talks.“Several Hurriyat leaders are in NIA custody. I pray to God that all of them are acquitted of all the charges. But I hope the Hurriyat leaders have understood now that Pakistan can’t help out and only the Indian courts can deliver justice for them,” he said.

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