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New interlocutors to re-start dialogue in Kashmir

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 04:48:30 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The government Wednesday named journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari and academician Radha Kumar as its new interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir to re-start dialogue with "all shades of political opinion" and help bring peace in the troubled state.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here that "we have appointed the group of interlocutors", calling the three "very credible people".

"We may add one more interlocutor later," the home minister told reporters.

He said the government hoped the interlocutors would "begin a process of sustained uninterrupted dialogue with all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially with youths and students and all shades of political opinion".

The move, which Chidambaram said was a "clear demonstration of the seriousness on the part of the government of India" to solve the problems that have been there "for many, many years", comes in the wake of renewed unrest in Kashmir Valley in the last four months which has left at least 109 civilians dead, mostly in firing by security forces.

The decision to have a new group of interlocutors was taken at the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting chaired by Prime Manmohan Singh last month. Re-starting peace talks in Kashmir and appointing interlocutors is part of the eight-point initiative announced by the government after the Sep 25 cabinet meeting.

The government had also announced ex-gratia relief for the families of those killed since June 11.

Without naming separatist leaders, Chidambaram urged the politicians of Jammu and Kashmir to engage with the interlocutors. "I would appeal to all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir and all shades of political opinion to engage with the interlocutors so that we can move forward on the path of finding a solution to the problem."

The group will cover the views of all the three regions -- Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.

Asked why the panel included no political person, Chidambaram said they "have a political persona".

"All of them are well known to the people of India. All of them are engaged in work which is in public domain and we think they are very credible people, people with a good track record."

The government's earlier move to engage separatist leaders in "quiet talks, quiet diplomacy" had failed in December last year. The process broke down when militants shot and severely injured Hurriyat leader Fazal Qureshi.

Qureshi is a senior leader of the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat faction that had agreed to secretly talk to the government of India.

Two of the three new interlocutors were involved in the Kashmir peace process earlier at different times. Padgaonkar was a member of the Kashmir Committee led by eminent lawyer and now Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ram Jethmalani.

Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Millia Islamia, was engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. She was in the valley recently and had visited Geelani at a hospital in Srinagar where he was undergoing treatment.

Noted educationist and economist Ansari was a professor and director at the Hamdard University before becoming information commissioner.





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