Paswan, Brinda in parliamentary-civil society team visiting Kashmir


New Delhi: A 10-member team of political leaders, rights activists and academics will visit the troubled Kashmir Valley to hold talks with “all sections of the society to discuss issues for building justice and peace in Kashmir”, the organisers said here Monday.

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Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja, filmmaker and rights activist Mahesh Bhat and academic Komal Chenoy will be among the team members.

The “parliamentary-civil society team” has been drawn up by the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA), a “think tank to formulate alternative policies”, Paswan said at a press conference.

“We will meet all sections, including the separatist leaders” during the three-day trip beginning Dec 3, Paswan said.

Paswan said the recently-appointed three-member team of interlocutors of the government has not “delivered as they have not met those having mass base in the Valley”.

The team will also include Lok Sabha members Nama Nageswara Rao (Telugu Desam Party), Maheswar Hazari, Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui (Bahujan Samaj Party), Janata Dal-Secular general secretary Danish Ali and journalist Seema Mustafa.

Describing the trip as a “confidence building measure”, Paswan said the team will “suggest social, political and economic measures towards just peace in Kashmir”.

Paswan said that “callousness of the army and the government” had been among the reasons for the violence and unrest in the Valley.

“If the authorities had apologized for the first civilian killing, much of the four-month-long civil protests which resulted in retaliation by security forces, killing 108 civilians, could have been avoided,” he said.

D. Raja said that the general opinion among the politicians, cutting across party affiliations, was at least for a review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), if not revoking it.

Asked whether they favoured filing of treason cases against those who make inflammatory speeches, like by Hurriyat leader Ali Shah Geelani and writer-activist Arundhati Roy, Raja said: “No. In a democracy, the opportunity of dissent should be given.”

Paswan said the team will be visiting the Valley without any “pre-conceived agenda”.

“The process of consultation will be transparent and open,” he added.

The CPA team’s other terms of reference include:

– To identify concrete confidence building measures to be taken by the government and civil society to address deepening alienation among Kashmiris

– To build pressure on government through parliament for the implementation of the recommendations to reduce the suffering of Kashmiris.

– To pay special attention to the plight of orphans and youth in the Valley.