New interlocutor talks in Delhi

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SRINAGAR: Even before he had his first visit to Srinagar, Delhi’s new point man Disneshwar Sharma has remained busy in talking to newspapers for all these days. Many in Srinagar think that he has talked so much on Kashmir that nothing much is left to be talked in Srinagar now.

Initial reaction to his appointment was very supportive from the BJP and PDP even as the opposition in Srinagar and Delhi questioned the idea to the extent that UPA’s erstwhile hawk P Chidambaram sees it a “diversionary” tactic. The verbal duels that followed Chidambaram’s assertions have added to the crisis that Sharma would face in Srinagar in coming days. As for as Kashmir’s separatist camp is concerned, they have kept their cards to the chest and have not bothered to react at all.

Chidambaram has talked about granting the state autonomy, something that the state had and was gradually eroded. “The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect the letter and spirit of Article 370, that means they want greater autonomy,” Chidambaram had told reporters in Rajkot (Gujarat). “My interactions in J&K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all… the overwhelming majority, they want autonomy.”

A man who claims to be “emotionally” attached to Kashmir, has said he will talk to “every Indian” in Kashmir and will intervene to “stop radicalisation” of the Kashmiri youth. Then he talks about his top priority: “countering false sloganeering and propaganda available online will top his agenda. Keen to develop “dams of peace”, Sharma is talking about preventing Kashmir from getting Syria way!

This has triggered fierce reaction. “They (Congress) are lending their voice to those demanding azadi. I want to ask the residents of Bengaluru, can such people, who play politics on the sacrifices of the brave soldiers, do good for the country… And they are not feeling ashamed in saying this. Congress party will have to give an answer for this remark,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi sad in his Bangaluru speech.

Minutes later, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said in Himachal Pradesh: “Does he mean that inadequacy of rights is the cause of the Kashmir problem? And what more rights he wants when all the rights and powers except defence, external affairs, telecommunication and currency are with the state?”

Though the National Conference (NC) in Srinagar supported Chidambaram’s assertion and passed a resolution in a well attended convention of its party, the debate on autonomy has put a long shadow over Sharma’s ‘autonomous mandate’. In Srinagar, the debate is being seen as Delhi’s reluctance to talk. “If they cannot talk autonomy, what they can do with Hurriyat, if at all they agree to meet him,” one reporter, covering the NC public gathering, said.

The point man and the representative has added to this crisis. After his appointment, Sharma has been using every single opening in the media to list his priorities. A man who claims to be “emotionally” attached to Kashmir, has said he will talk to “every Indian” in Kashmir and will intervene to “stop radicalisation” of the Kashmiri youth. Then he talks about his top priority: “countering false sloganeering and propaganda available online will top his agenda. Keen to develop “dams of peace”, Sharma is talking about preventing Kashmir from getting Syria way!

Delhi’s new interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma meeting J&K governor N N Vohra in Delhi

“I am going to the Valley with no blinkers on. I am willing to meet every common person who has a genuine grievance,” the 1979 IPS officer from Kerala carder was quoted saying. “My mandate is to ensure peace for my people. Issues beyond this are out of my syllabus.”

On streets of Srinagar, Sharma’s assertions are being seen ‘non-interlocutory’. Coukdhv he waited for his maiden visit to Srinagar before listing his “priorities”? Though he has handled Kashmir as the top man in Inteligence Bureau in Srinagar in 1992 – almost 25 years ago – lot of water has flown down Jhelum since. His recent intercations with Kashmir have been his meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and later with governor N N Vohra, his predecesor.

“Is he coming to identify a problem or solve the one he knows?” one shopkeeper in Lal Chowk, who has witnessed most of the events since Nehru days said. “His interviews suggest that he knows the problems and he will solve it.”

This situation pushes Kashmir to take Chidambaram’s comments seriously. “The appointment of the interlocutor should not lead us to think that there is a change of heart of the government,” the former Home Minister was quoted saying. “I don’t believe that there is a change of heart or change of approach. I still believe that they will continue to hold on to the muscular policy and military solution.”

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