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Is NIA probe a major hurdle in Delhi-Hurriyat talks?

New Delhi, Jun 09: The future of the delicately poised dialogue between the government at the Centre and separatists in Kashmir is closely linked to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe into ‘terror’ funding, a media report on Saturday claimed.
Quoting from multiple government officials involved with the backchannel parley, Hindustan Times reported.
“Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference have pointed to the charge sheets filed in court by the NIA, asking how the case and talks can go side by side,” the HT report said quoting one official on condition of anonymity.
It said the ground was being prepared for a dialogue with the separatists.
“In response to an offer of talks by home minister Rajnath Singh, the Joint Resistance Leadership indicated it would be ready for a dialogue provided the government of India spoke in one voice and with clarity. The NIA’s probe, however, is a hurdle,” the report added.
A charge sheet filed by the NIA in January, the report further said, points to the link between the leaders of the Joint Hurriyat and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.
“No direct charges have been made against leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq or Yasin Malik, but the NIA charge sheet says they espouse the cause of secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The blame for the protests by stone-pelting youth has also been laid at the door of the separatists,” it added.
When asked about the Hurriyat’s concerns over the NIA’s multiple investigations, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in a telephone interview from Srinagar said: “The government should decide whether they want to arrest us or talk to us.”
Reiterating the Joint Hurriyat’s commitment to a dialogue, Mirwaiz said, “The (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government spoke to us under the ambit of humanity. Let (home minister) Rajnath Singh tell us whether his government has had a change of heart or is it just a change of strategy. If we are the kingpins of the demonstrations and the protests, who is now paying the youth to go to encounter sites?”
Key aides and relatives of the separatists have been in jail for over a year due to the NIA probe. Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh, son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesperson of the Mirwaiz, are still in prison.
The Mirwaiz also indicated that the JRL would prefer a dialogue at the ‘political level’ and not at the level of the interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, who retired as the chief of the Intelligence Bureau.
Rajnath reiterated the need for a dialogue while on a two-day visit to the state. “You don’t have to be like-minded, but right-minded,” he said in Srinagar on Thursday.
The Mirwaiz held out hope of a dialogue, saying, “We will respond soon to the home minister’s request.”
A second official, familiar with the backchannel efforts also held out hope, hinting that it’s possible to simply keep the NIA case going without doing anything about it. “The case against Yasin Malik, accused of killing air force officers, is still dragging on for more than 25 years,” this person added on condition of anonymity.
“We are hopeful of talks.”