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Hurriyat-PM talks: Kashmir to wait and watch

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
September 06, 2005 23:55 IST
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Though the Hurriyat is upbeat about its talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there is no palpable euphoria amongst the locals, who are maintaining a wait and watch approach.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed described the meeting as a good beginning to restart the dialogue process.

"All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders had earlier held talks with the then deputy prime minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, but the difference between now and then is that this time Pakistan is also supportive of the dialogue. This is a positive development that would promote the ongoing peace process," he said.

Replying a question on the alleged human rights violations, the chief minister said he has never claimed that these have completely stopped, but said there is drastic decline in such incidents.

"As far as the human rights violations are concerned, these have been brought to a minimum level," he replied, adding the measures taken by the government have yielded positive results.

"The moderate APHC has met senior Indian leaders in the past, but the extra-mile that the United Progressive Alliance government walked by allowing the moderate leaders to visit Pakistan and later inviting them for talks with the prime minister indicates the seriousness with which Dr Manmohan Singh is engaging the separatist politicians," says Abdul Rashid, a Srinagar-based college lecturer.

But on a day when the moderate APHC supporters in Kashmir were busy convincing locals that phased release of those detained and better regard for human rights would form the bedrock of the newfound confidence between New Delhi and Srinagar, a bizarre state government decision to book the Dukhtarani Millat chief Aasiya Andrabi and eight of her activists under the Public Safety Act has jolted the hope building efforts by the Centre.

"See, New Delhi has booked Aasiya Andrabi only a day after they promised to release those detained. The moderate APHC is neither the holders of legacy of martyrs nor are they loyal to constitution of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference," said Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Aasiya Andrabi had recently launched an aggressive campaign against sex workers in Kashmir capital Srinagar whose activities the Dukhtarani Millat alleged were becoming ubiquitous in the valley. She was arrested last week during one of her 'raids' on a hotel in city uptown and lodged in all women's police station.

Mehraj-ud-Din , a shop-keeper in Srinagar's city centre Lal Chowk sums it up the best: "It is a fingers-crossed situation and unless the confidence building measures concretise, nothing would be definite either about the fate of present talks or about the future of moderate separatist leaders in Kashmir."


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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar