BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday created ripples as he led a five-member delegation of civil society members to meet separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a bid to break the three-month impasse in Kashmir triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
BJP distanced itself from the initiative as did the central government, saying it was done at a personal level. “It is not a BJP delegation. BJP has nothing to do with this,” BJP’s National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said in Delhi.
A top Home Ministry official said the delegation was touring the Kashmir Valley on its own wisdom and the Central government has nothing to do with it.
The delegation led by the former Minister for External Affairs and Finance met Geelani, leader of hardline Hurriyat Conference, at his residence in Hyderpora area of Srinagar. The delegation also met Mirwaiz Farooq, the chief of another faction of Hurriyat Conference.
Talking to reporters after these meetings, Sinha said, “I only want to say that we had come for talks and the talks happened in a good manner.”
The other members of the delegation were Wajahat Habibullah, former bureaucrat of J&K government and ex-chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshal, journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
Habibullah said the meeting took place in a very good atmosphere. “Very nice and friendly discussion. This is not track-2 diplomacy because we are not representing anybody. We are here on our own initiative. We are not representing anybody or any government,” the former bureaucrat said.
“We had not come with an agenda. We came with sympathetic relation as Indians here because we saw there is pain in a part of India,” he said.
Habibullah expressed hope that the current impasse in Kashmir will end. “We always hope. World lives on hope,” he said.
A spokesman of the Geelani-led Hurriyat said the 87-year-old separatist leader apprised the delegation about the historical perspective of the Kashmir issue.
Geelani said all the political prisoners, who are languishing in jails for years, should be released so that they can hold consultations for a joint strategy that can pave way for resolution of the Kashmir issue.
“Geelani told them that it was India which took the matter to the United Nations in 1947. People have rendered great and unparalleled sacrifices for a just resolution of Kashmir issue,” the spokesman said.
He said on the current unrest in the valley, Geelani told the delegation that 94 persons have been killed and 15,000 others have been injured, while an equal number have been arrested in the past 107 days.
After meeting the delegation, Mirwaiz said the separatists were not against dialogue but wanted the issue to be resolved through meaningful tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.