Interlocutor Sharma to return to Srinagar on Thursday
Srinagar, Feb 20: Centre’s special representative, Dineshwar Sharma would be again visiting Srinagar on February 22 with a “willingness” to meet Hurriyat leaders. Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, announced the appointment of Sharma, a former IB director, on October 23, as a special interlocutor to restart the dialogue process for a solution to Kashmir issue. Thursday would be Sharma’s fifth visit to the state. “I am coming to Srinagar on Thursday,” Sharma told The Kashmir Monitor over phone. However, he said that he has not decided yet with whom he would meet in Srinagar. Asked whether he would meet Hurriyat leaders, he said, “I am ready to meet anybody. Whosoever is willing they can come to meet me.” So far, the Hurriyat leaders have refused to meet Sharma. Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have termed the interlocution process as “time buying tactics” by New Delhi. However, there were reports that Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, who is part of Hurriyat Conference (M), met Sharma at his residence in Srinagar on November 27 during his second visit to the state. Earlier, while addressing the joint session of the state legislature in Jammu ahead of the Budget session on January 2, the state governor NN Vohra had, in his address, asked the separatists to come forward and talk to Sharma. In his four visits to the state, Sharma met mainstream politicians, civil society members, traders, and people from other walks of life. However, most prominent civil society groups, traders refused to meet him during his earlier visits. Sharma is credited for the amnesty announced by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to first time stone pelters in Kashmir. It was only after recommendation of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma and advice from Union Ministry Home Affair that the state government announced amnesty to first time offenders in the valley. Mehbooba had said that people from all shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir would join the dialogue process initiated in the state. She had said that she has been pleading for initiation of dialogue in the state and expressed happiness that Centre, agreeing to her suggestion, appointed Sharma as the interlocutor for the state. However, former chief minister, and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah had said that the efforts of the Centre’s special interlocutor for Kashmir “can only succeed if his final report is tabled in both Houses of Parliament for discussion”. “Even before Sharma was to visit the valley, there were different voices emerging from New Delhi including that from the minister in the Prime Minister’s Office [Jitendra Singh] who said Sharma was not an interlocutor,” Abdullah had said.