Not first time when Hurriyat says ‘no’ to talks

By I. Ramamohan Rao New Delhi [India], Sept. 5 : The Hurriyat refused to meet with the all party delegation, which was in Srinagar yesterday and that decision of the Hurriyat was mostly on expected lines.

They had rejected Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's invitation for talks as well. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that the members of the all party delegation who went to speak to Hurriyat members went in their personal capacity.

This muddled mindset of the Hurriyat where they want talks but not want it at the same time, is not unusual.

I was the Principal Information Officer of the Government of India when the first all party delegation led by then Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal visited Srinagar on March 9, 1990.

The delegation included the leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Rajiv Gandhi, Railway Minister George Fernandes and other leaders.

Prime Minister V.P. Singh asked me to accompany the delegation. Jammu and Kashmir was under Governor's rule. Jagmohan, who had served earlier as the Governor, was sent to bring the situation under control by Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

The separatists had declared a bandh and there was an eerie silence when the delegation drove from the airport to the Centaur Hotel on the bank of the Dal Lake.

Ved Marwah, Advisor to Governor Jagmohan, had received the delegation. When we entered the hotel, there was a hostile reception and when some members of the delegation asked for time, the attendants gave the Pakistani standard time.

Later, the members of the delegation were briefed by Governor Jagmohan. Much time was lost with blame-gaming on asking Jagmohan why he did not come to the airport to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister-led delegation.

Governor Jagmohan told the delegation that the main political parties in the state, mainly the National Conference and Congress had melted away.

There were two groups among the militants, those who wanted Azadi and those who wanted the state to accede to Pakistan.

He said that Government of India could talk to those who wanted Azadi. The delegation was told that there were regular bus services from Srinagar to the Line of Control. Kashmiri youth travelled in the busses, went across, got themselves trained in the use of AK-47 and returned with a gun and ammunition that they could carry.

While in Srinagar, George Fernandes had called on Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, the father of the present Mirwaiz, Umar Farooq, and had initiated a dialogue in his personal capacity.

After returning to Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi told Prime Minister V.P. Singh that the Governor Jagmohan had no political understanding of the situation. On his suggestion, a Minister for Kashmir was appointed. George Fernandes was given additional charge as the Minister of Kashmir affairs. The State Publicity Department had melted away in Srinagar. The national media representatives had left Srinagar except for George Joseph, who worked for the Indian Express and his wife Asha Khosa, who worked for the Tribune.

On return, I was asked to be the spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir Government in addition to my duties as the Principal Information Officer.

It took months of painstaking hard work to develop an insight into the situation. Watching the proceedings now from the comfort of my living room post-retirement, I don't envy the work of government negotiators who are dealing with the same separatists two and a half decades later.

In the interim period, there have been several attempts to talk to the Hurriyat, several proposals, working groups, much back and forth.

The only difference now seems to be that the Hurriyat are not that important a stakeholder in the current anti-India.

[Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached on].

Source: ANI