Interlocutors begin meetings in Kashmir

Dileep Padagaonkar (Second from left), Radha Kumar (from left) and M.M. Ansari with Muzaffar Hussain Baig

The three-member team of interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir led by eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar arrived here on Saturday, saying its focus will be on meeting students and youth to “get the feeling on the ground.” It said no solution could emerge without involving Pakistan.

Soon after arrival, Mr. Padgaonkar, M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar started establishing contact with the people they know. Reiterating that the team had come to Kashmir with an “open mind and a big heart,” Mr. Padgaonkar said there had been many slogans here and there but “we have to move forward for a comprehensive and viable political solution of the problem.”

Acknowledging that the unrest in the Valley was mostly youth-driven, the team has decided to devote Monday for meeting students and youth. “We are in touch with a certain number of people. We have said we would like students — representing all opinions coming from all parts of the State — to meet us. All of Monday, we would like to listen to young people,” he told journalists.

Kashmir, Mr. Padgaonkar said, was a complex issue and needed a political approach to find a “political solution.” He said there were different perspectives in Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. However, he emphasised, there were no readymade formulas.

The team is staying at the State Guest House here and has chalked out a schedule of spending 10 days each month in the State. The team will visit Jammu next week. It will brief the Prime Minister after every visit to build an understanding at the higher level.

On Pakistan, Mr. Padgaonkar said its involvement in finding a comprehensive political solution was a must. “Pakistan has been there since 1947 and without talking to Pakistan a solution cannot emerge,” he said, adding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleagues were desirous of engaging with Pakistan and ready to go half way should Pakistan come forward on the “entire range of issues, including Kashmir.”

Boycott call

The team members parried questions about the boycott called by hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. But Mr. Padgaonkar said they would reach out to people on their own and move without security. “If they [separatists] have problems in coming to us we will go to their doorstep,” he said.

“We are open to meeting anybody. Since we have just started we should not jump the gun,” Ms. Radha Kumar told The Hindu. “We are optimistic that we can open channels of communication with a larger group of people,” she said.

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