The streets of Srinagar were eerily quiet as an all-party delegation led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived on Sunday in an attempt to find a way out of a cycle of violence that has engulfed Kashmir for two months now.
Even the few vehicles and pedestrians that had been seen on the streets in past days were missing. Small groups of paramilitary and police personnel were the only signs of life.
Outside the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre – where the delegation was scheduled to meet various groups and individuals from the state – securitymen idled away under the shade of trees. A guard at the entrance said only a single group of farm workers had come to meet the MPs from Delhi since the morning.
In a tent on the lawns, mediapersons gathered around, some discussing the absurdity of talks that did not include a broad spectrum of opinion from the Valley. Cameras pointed towards a table from where politicians addressed the media in turns.
Omar Abdullah of the opposition National Conference recalled the failure of a similar all-party delegation that had arrived after a summer of mass protests in 2010, when he was the state’s chief minister.
Separatists snub team from Delhi
In the evening, three members of the delegation – Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), D Raja of the Communist Party of India, and the Janata Dal United’s Sharad Yadav – made an attempt to meet some of the separatist leaders, who had all been placed under house arrest.
They were turned away by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, who was lodged in the Humhama Police Mess.
Shortly afterwards, Hurriyat (G) leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani refused to open the door of his home to the three visitors. After waiting a few minutes, they got back in their white Ambassadors parked in the narrow lane oustide, which was swamped with journalists, policemen and onlookers. As the cavalcade drove away, there were shouts of “Go India, Go Back”, “Hum kya chahte? Azadi”, and “Jammu bhi maange azadi… Kargil bhi maangey azadi" – "What do we want? Freedom" and "Jammu is also demanding freedom...Kargil is also demanding freedom."
Another member of the delegation, Assaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, reached Cheshmashahi sub-jail, where he managed to meet Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyat (M), reports said.
The Mirwaiz reportedly met Yechury, Raja and Yadav, too, later, but the Hurriyat leaders had taken a decision “not to talk of anything tangible”.
Chief Minister Mufti had written to the separatists, urging them to meet with the all-party delegation. The separatists had responded with a letter of their own, accusing her government of being “a civilian mask to a brutal military occupation”.
PTI reported 10 incidents of stone-pelting across the Valley, which has been on edge since security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8. The violence and protests have left over 70 people dead and thousands injured.
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