Lawmakers on Mission Kashmir cut no ice with separatists

Srinagar: Top Kashmiri separatist leaders on Saturday refused to talk to national opposition leaders who were part of an all-party delegation that arrived here on a mission to restore peace in the restive valley that is battling nearly two months of the deadliest unrest in years.

Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav and Communist leaders Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja went to meet Geelani at his upscale Hyderpora residence.

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But the hardline Hurriyat chairman refused to even let them in and the three MPs left after waiting at his door for about ten minutes, informed sources told IANS.

Outside the house, several of Geelani’s supporters massed around and angrily shouted slogans as the MPs’ cars and security vehicles went past. They chanted “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”.

A disappointed Yechury later told the media that they “had come to hold talks and listen to his (Geelani’s) viewpoint”.

“We can move forward (to solve the Kashmir problems) only through talks. But he didn’t open the door,” Yechury said.

After their failed bid at Haiderpora, the three leaders returned to the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre where they had earlier attended a meeting of all parties with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

In 2010, when the valley was witnessing a similar unrest, the CPI-M general secretary had succeeded in convincing Geelani to mold his protest calendar and help restore normalcy in Kashmir.

Yechury had led a five-member team to meet the Hurriyat leader as an all-party delegation led by then Home Minister P. Chidambaram visited Kashmir that year.

Sharad Yadav, Yechury and Raja earlier went to meet Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik at a police hub turned into a prison at Humhama, close to the Srinagar airport, on the outskirts of the city.

Malik met them barely for 10 minutes but more to say that there was no point in holding any talks with the MPs, sources told IANS. Also detained with Malik are three key Geelani aides.

Separately, Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen went to meet moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz at Chashma Shahi where a tourist hut has been converted to a sub-jail.

Separatist leader Shabir Shah was also brought to the sub-jail.

Mirwaiz was cold to Owaisi, saying the Hurriyat had already decided not to meet the MPs who had come with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

A disappointed Owaisi then met Shah for some 10 minutes but he too made it clear that he was in no mood for any dialogue with the MPs or the government officials who are part of the delegation from Delhi.

The separatist leaders had earlier in a statement said the delegation from Delhi has not “spelled out its mandate” and had no clear agenda of its engagement in the valley, where normal life has been disrupted for nearly two months now.

“Everyone knows that people have been shouting ‘Azadi’ on the roads for those who want to listen and writing on walls and placards for those who can see,” they said in a statement.

As the MPs landed in Srinagar, more violence erupted across the Kashmir Valley. Police sources said nearly 100 people were injured in clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces at various places.

At least 40 people were injured as security forces used shotgun pellets to disperse thousands of protesters in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. A mob of protesters later set ablaze a multi-story sprawling complex of the district administration.

The complex was inaugurated just last year and many of the district offices had not moved into the new state-of-the-art building.

The incident occurred as thousands of protesters took to the streets for a pro-freedom rally — the latest in a series of protests triggered by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

At least 74 persons, including two policemen, have been killed in the weeks of violence. More than 11,500 civilians and security forces have been injured.

An official spokesman said the delegation of MPs from all parties met about 200 members from different sections of society in its first day in Srinagar. These include leaders of various political parties, trade unions and students and teachers associations.