Chai Pe Charcha

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by Masood Hussain

Yashwant Sinha led five-member group called on incarcerated Syed Ali Geelani at his Hyderpora house on Oct 25, 2016.

Yashwant Sinha led five-member group called on incarcerated Syed Ali Geelani at his Hyderpora house on Oct 25, 2016.

It was proverbial pellet disbursal on Monday last when the activities picked up quickly. While Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was driven to his Nigeen mansion from the Chashma Shahi sub-jail, cops surrounding JKLF leader Yasin Malik were radioed that the man be considered free.

At Hyderpora, cops manning the outposts of the security grid, two vehicles which are bunker-homes with adequate connectivity and surveillance, were at ease. There was some sort of in-and-out activity.

Insiders said the activity was outcome of month-long talking at various levels. Finally the separatists, especially the three, were told that a “delegation” was flying from Delhi for meeting. Unlike All Party Delegation (APD) that came knocking at doors or simply were escorted into the detention centres, this time appointments were fixed in anticipation.

Malik was an exception, however. Admitted to SKIMS for a serious injury triggered by a badly administered injection, Malik told Wajahat Habibullah, key initiator of the “delegation”, that the meeting may not take place.

Meeting with Syed Ali Geelani in Hyderpora started with water and ended with Kehwa and continued way beyond the schedule. At the end of the meeting, Sinha and Geelani were seen holding each other’s hands. It was not very different with Mirwaiz and others. There was free and frank exchange of ideas.

Yashwant Sinha speaking to reporters after meeting Syed Ali Geelani outside later's residence on Oct 25, 2016. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Yashwant Sinha speaking to reporters after meeting Syed Ali Geelani outside later’s residence on Oct 25, 2016. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Yeshwant Sinha led group has termed the visit successful and Wajahat has announced they will draft a report and submit it to Delhi. “Kashmir was peaceful in way, a sad situation triggered by anger hatred, resentment, and frustration,” he told reporters. He also said they had kept the Home Minister in loop but had visited as individuals on personal initiatives. “They paid for their own tickets,” informed sources from Delhi said. “State government working overtime to ensure this initiative does not fail. Governor was personally keen on this.”

“I was frightened by your article,” Sinha had ringed up Wajahat when his essay appeared in The Hindu. UP journalist Santosh Bharti’s open letter to Modi had made an equally good impact. Then they talked to Jairam Ramesh and Sitaram Yechury and a loose group of concerned citizens, now being named Kashmir Advisory Group, emerged. At the last moment, however, Jairam and Yechury could not fly to Srinagar, Jairam was unwell (many say his party was reluctant) and Yechury had to fly abroad. Brinda Karat, Kapil Kak, PC are also part of the initiative.

In Delhi, the impression is that the group was sent to explore possibilities of engagement and scope of it. But there is nobody who could claim ownership of the exercise at official level. This has led many to believe that BJP wants to retain the right of “plausible deniability” with it so that it salvages the party in case the initiative fails or takes a turn that could impact ballot boxes in UP, Gujarat and Punjab. Rather than MHA, it was state government initiative to first break the ice at local level that is why Chief Minister personally cleared the visit from the PMO.

Yashwant Sinha, Journalist Bharat Bhushan and Executive Director, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Sushoba Barve in Srinagar on Oct 27, 2016. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Yashwant Sinha, Journalist Bharat Bhushan and Executive Director, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Sushoba Barve in Srinagar on Oct 27, 2016. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Compared to the shut doors, it is being considered as an opportunity. “I told them categorically that it is completely political and that if you (Delhi) think Hurriyat or Pakistan instigated it, you are wrong,” Mirwaiz told Kashmir Life. “I told them, we all were home, knowing absolutely nothing and making no contribution in it because it is a peoples’ movement, completely spontaneous and honest.” By giving their lives, their limbs and their eyes, Mirwaiz said he told Sinha, “People have clearly given the tehreek their vision”.

Though Sinha would reiterate everywhere that he was talking in his personal capacity, he would tell his hosts that had BJP not lost in 2004, things in Kashmir might not have reached this pass. He also has said that Kashmir’s “dispute” is Delhi’s “issue” and that India is committed to settling it with Pakistan under Shimla Agreement.

Mirwaiz said Sinha dropped some broad hints that any process may have to grapple with. Firstly, elections in various states may not have as much impact on any Delhi-Srinagar initiative as the influence of hardline elements, including security establishment, may have. In rightwing era, RSS is the only hawkish almighty of the Parivaar. Right now it is Ajit Doval doctrine that is at play. Secondly, Srinagar and Delhi will have to work a lot to manage India’s public opinion. He has in fact said that his concern and visit is mostly aimed at public opinion, and sharing the pain.

There have not been many ifs and buts as both sides have agreed that Prime Minister Vajpayee’s ‘ambit of Insaaniyat’ offers a larger flexibility to manage limitations.

Though both sides agree that literally nothing happened as it was just Chai Pe Charcha, many things have already taken place.  Before taking off, the group has taken some of the suggestions from Hyderpora to Raj Bhawan and the erstwhile Papa-II. There were not many rejections and it was in follow up to those high-power meetings that team members ensured to drop the ‘work done’ report at Hyderpora.

Yashwant Sinha with Mehbooba Mufti on Oct 26, 2016 evening.

Yashwant Sinha with Mehbooba Mufti on Oct 26, 2016 evening.

For a commoner on the street, waiting to work for four months now, it proved more of a hoax. It was nothing different for a student for whom some of the team members re-visited Hyderpora but failed. “We are equally concerned,” Mirwaiz said. “How can we decide on this when the government is not in a position to even offer us (Geelani and Malik and him) a flexibility to meet?” He said when he was driven to Chashma Shahi, he thought the government will bring them as well so that we can discuss issues, first within ourselves, but that did not happen. “They (government) are even scared of our prayers too. How can it work?”

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