Citizens’ group for dialogue on JK

Taking a cue from latest statements from government and BJP on Jammu and Kashmir, a high-profile citizens group led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday urged the government to initiate dialogue with stakeholders.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) said they are reading the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP leadership with “much hope” as there is a “positive change in policy towards Kashmiris.

While it is looking forward to a “concrete follow up” on these statements, the CCG said it wants the government to “clearly identify” the stakeholders and announce the name of an authorised interlocutor to “operationalise the well-intentioned statements” that have “so eloquently been made”.

The statement, signed by former National Minorities Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao among others, also wanted the government to set a time-frame for the beginning and conduct of the dialogue process and start it as soon as possible.

“Despite deep scepticism that has taken hold of their minds, the encouraging statements by the Prime Minister, Home Minister and others hold promise for the Kashmiris. The present opportunity should not be wasted. And, therefore, it is our fervent appeal to the government to quickly act definitively on the sentiments expressed in a time-bound manner,” the statement said.

Other signatories include Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, former Special Secretary V Balachandran, academicians Badri Raina, Ramchandra Guha and Zoya Hasan, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist John Dayal.

In his Independence Day speech, Modi had said that Kashmiris need a hug not abuses or bullets while Singh had undertaken a visit to Kashmir recently. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav has said that government is ready to hold dialogues with every stakeholder, including separatists.

Last month, a CCG delegation had visited Kashmir and said “simmering anger” over Article 35(A) is leading to an “increasing distance” between Kashmiris and the rest of India and the “sense of dismay and despondency in the people had grown” compared to their previous visits.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

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