The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday opposed any dialogue with the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, and said that any talks with the separatist group would be “counter-productive and a retrograde step”, PTI reported. This comes a day after Hurriyat Conference Chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said his organisation will respond positively if the Centre initiates meaningful talks with separatists in Kashmir.

“The Joint Resistance Leadership [a body of separatists groups] should publicly acknowledge the undisputable status of Jammu and Kashmir and it being an integral part of India,” BJP spokesperson Anil Gupta said in a statement, according to the news agency. “They should also commit their loyalty to Constitution of India and seek talks only under its ambit.”

Gupta said any talks with the Hurriyat leadership without accepting these pre-conditions would be “counter-productive and a retrograde step”. He asserted that none of the Hurriyat leaders had indicated any change in their stance and mere appeal for talks with the Centre without stopping their promotion of separatism is no signal of change in their mindset.

“Hurriyat is the perpetrator of most of the problems in Kashmir,” Gupta was quoted as saying. “And with the inflow of hawala money controlled, they are now strapped of cash and thus asking for talks.”

“Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of Hurriyat does not represent the majority of the Kashmiris,” Gupta said in a post on Facebook. “It speaks on behalf of the Kashmiri power brokers who claim to be mainstream but survive on the latent support of the Jammat-e-Islami Kashmir (JEIK), the main ideologue of the separatists and the Hurriyat. Ahl-e- Hadith is the new entrant in the entire game plan. They are also the mouthpiece of Pakistan and dictated by the ISI.

The BJP leader said initiation of talks with them would be a huge setback to the ongoing operations against terror and the terror-support network in the state, of which he said the Hurriyat was a “major culprit”. He also referred to Ram Vilas Paswan’s outreach to Hurriyat leaders during an unrest in 2016 and how the separatist leaders insulted BJP by not negotiating in the matter then. “...The same leadership had spurned the offer of talks within the ambit of Constitution because, at that time, they enjoyed the backing and support of Pakistan,” Gupta claimed.

“Present offer is a ruse and time gaining exercise to reorganize,” Gupta said on Facebook. “Hence, a big NO to the offer of talks.”

On Saturday, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik had said that the situation in the Valley is changing and the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference were ready for talks with the Centre. Responding to this, Farooq had said that they were convinced that a way out can only be achieved through talking. “Dialogue is the only way and that is our consistent stand. Hurriyat has always been in favour of talks as the means of resolution,” Farooq told The Indian Express.

The last time the Hurriyat leaders had held talks with the Centre was in 2004, when the National Democratic Alliance was in power. In 2005, they met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but there were no formal discussions. The talks have not progressed since then.