The appointment of new interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma by New Delhi has created a new confusion among the people of Kashmir. This is not the first interlocutor appointed by Delhi. There is a pattern to it. Seven years ago, after the 2010 uprising, the UPA government sent three interlocutors comprising noted journalist, late Dilip Padgaonkar, academic Radha Kumar and bureaucrat M M Qureshi to Kashmir.
They had been appointed following the five month long unrest during which 120 youth were killed. Those interlocutors were appointed with the same purpose to establish a ”sustained dialogue” with the people of Kashmir and what happened after that is history!
Now, once again, the pattern has been repeated. Given the history of betrayals by New Delhi, the new ‘dialogue’ on Jammu and Kashmir seems to be a failure even before it could start. Apparently, the main stakeholders to the dialogue are the separatist leaders but they have categorically refused to talk with Sharma. The joint Hurriyat leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar and Yasin Malik have rejected dialogue because they have the doings of New Delhi in past as reference.
Sharma’s appointment came as a surprise since the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre had been averse to taking this route to address the problems in and of Kashmir. For three years, it pursued a hard line and gave the military and paramilitary forces a free hand to deal with the situation. Even the use of pellets that blinded scores of young boys and girls was justified in the name of maintaining law and order. However, the groundswell has been clear; there has to be a political resolution to the problem.
Now, it is Sharma’s turn to reconfirm or prove his forerunners wrong and restore the tainted credibility of New Delhi. Underlining the rank public indifference to his visit in Valley, only a few insignificant delegations from various community and business interests met him on the first day. One of them comprised of representatives of the Gujjar community and another that of the fruit growers. Incidentally, no major civil society group went to meet him, even though 50 delegations were scheduled to meet him.
Unlike the former interlocutors who at least talked of greater political concessions, Sharma has set the bar very low. This has greatly reduced the public expectations from him with even the major mainstream political party like National Conference and Congress expressing their reservations about the initiative. There are signs that the initiative is going to go anywhere unless the Centre modifies its offer, upgrades Sharma’s mandate and prioritizes talks with the dissident groups challenging the political status quo in the state.