Polls, Kashmir issue poles apart: Interlocutors

By: Muddasir Ali
Srinagar: New Delhi appointed interlocutors on Kashmir Monday said participation of people in Panchayat polls and Kashmir problem were two different issues.
“Polls and Kashmir issue are far away from each other. People are participating in elections to address their basic issues,” said chief interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar, at the 2-day “Peace Conference” organized by “J&K Peace Foundation” here. He was flanked by other two members of the panel – academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner MM Ansari. However, Padgaonkar quickly added: “There is no doubt that by participating in the polls people have reiterated their faith in democracy.”
Panchayat elections are being held for the first time in JK after more than a decade. The 16-phase elections have recorded more than 80 percent participation during the first eight phases.
Referring to the task assigned to them to prepare a roadmap for resolving the Kashmir issue, Padgaonkar said he was glad to announce that “we can see the tunnel and the light at the end of the tunnel as well. But it’s the people of Jammu and Kashmir who can exactly tell us what can constitute broad contours of the political settlement to Kashmir issue.”
This is the 8th visit of the panel to Kashmir and so far it has met more than 500 delegations from different regions of the state, Padgaonkar said. The panel was appointed last October by government of India following summer unrest in which at least 117 people were killed.
Padgaonkar disclosed that the panel has prepared an interim report, which he said would be submitted to Prime Minister and Union Home Minister soon. “It will take some time to submit the final report,” Padgaonkar said. “We have to meet mainstream and non-mainstream leadership. We would try to meet even those who have kept away so far,” said Padgaonkar.
He said during their previous visits to JK they “felt that there is yearning for peace with justice in Kashmir. People asked for continuation of dialogue to find permanent settlement of Kashmir issue,” he said.
The panel has so far failed to break ice with the pro-freedom leaders except for their meeting with a senior separatist and patron of Itehad-ul-Muslimeen, Abbas Ansari. However the party was suspended from the Hurriyat Conference (M), by its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for violating the “collective decision” of the party not to meet interlocutors.
 The conference was inaugurated by the Governor, NN Vohra who was also the chief guest on the occasion.


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