The all-party delegation led by union home minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday wound up its three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir and returned to New Delhi from here, leaving behind a gleam of hope and a cloud of fear.
The 39-member delegation met almost 1,000 people from a cross section of society in the state and heard people until the midnight. But some people, including commoners and the Kashmiri Hindu leaders, were annoyed at not being given time to interact with the visitors.
The highlight of the visit, however, remained the meeting of some delegation members with the separatist leaders.
The members met hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani twice on Monday evening and Tuesday morning and also visited moderates — All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s (JKLF) Yasin Malik in Srinagar and jailed president of the Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Shah in Jammu.
This was being touted as a “success” of the visit by some delegation members, especially Communist Party of India-Maxist (CPM) leader Sita Ram Yechury, who described the interaction with separatists as a “meaningful exercise”.
Separatists, who had reiterated their known positions during the meetings, are learnt to be waiting as to how the delegation on its return would respond to their suggestions.
“Let’s hope that this time you understand things better,” Shabir Shah told the delegates who called on him at a nursing home, where he was temporarily shifted on Tuesday, from Kot Bhalwal jail near here, to facilitate his meeting with the delegation members.
It was also a message of hope for some, like Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who felt that the delegation’s visit was a “significant step”. He hoped that there would be “movement forward” in addressing problems faced by the people in the Kashmir Valley.
More than 100 people have been killed in the valley in over 100 days of renewed unrest and the situation is being kept under control by an almost round-the-clock curfew and heavy deployment of security forces.
Omar Abdullah’s National Conference party demanded withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and also greater autonomy to the state – a semi-sovereign status in which the state has all powers except those for dealing with communications, defence and foreign affairs and designation of head of the government as prime minister and that of the head of the state as “sadar-e-riyasat”.
This very hope of some was a source of fear for many in Jammu. “We are afraid that the delegation, the way it has reached out to separatists responsible for the trouble in the Kashmir Valley, would do something unacceptable to us,” BJP leader Ramesh Arora said.
The BJP was apprehensive that the delegation might “fall into the trap of separatists” and announce “some concessions which would have serious repercussions”, Arora said.
Some of the Congress leaders here, including former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma, were not clear in their assertion that neither the AFSPA should be revoked nor was there any need to revisit and grant more autonomy to the state.