THE Kashmir interlocutors have lost all credibility, by their own actions and now their continuance has become untenable. From the beginning we have been skeptical of their mission. It was not explained as to how the UPA government arrived at the conclusion that the Kashmir solution lies in the appointment of a team of interlocutors and that they can do more than what the political process in the country cannot.
In appointing such a team, the centre should have at least done the minimum necessary home work. The shabby manner in which the team was constituted is matched only by the shoddy way in which Dr Manmohan Singh runs the government.
Firstly, what are the credentials of these members of the team to negotiate with different factions in the Valley? They are not political heavy weights. They are not considered experts on Kashmir affairs. Most Indians have not even heard of these people. And is there anything outstanding about these three individuals to make their views acceptable either to the people in the state or the country? If the idea was to find an honest agenda to talk about Kashmir, the centre should have taken care of all these aspects. After all, it requires a huge national mandate to deal with Kashmir—to turn the clock back—that vastly deviates from the stated national position of Jammu and Kashmir being an integral part of India.
Having said that, any study team going with the official diktat of entering into negotiations with separatists, Pak sponsored insurgents and other political players including nationalist forces in the state, should have had an unblemished reputation—authority, so that their prognosis would have been taken seriously by the entire county. The centre has in fact, wasted an opportunity. And discredited its own initiative.
The revelation that the chairman of the team, Dilip Padgoankar, a former member of the UPA nominated National Minorities Commission has enjoyed hospitalities from the ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai and attended seminars in the US hosted by the ISI was enough for the centre to disband the team. With every passing day new revelations surfaced. What followed the disclosure was acrimony and open discord between the team members. It has become so lousy that one member wanted Padgoankar to quit the team after the expose, while Radha Kumar, the other member seems to have also been in the ISI seminar circuit, declaring that she will not attend any meeting in future with the third member MM Ansari. All the while, the Home Ministry to which the team is officially attached is conspicuously silent. Does that mean that the centre is not serious about the role of the interlocutors? Or has the series of exposures on the members of the team convinced the centre that nothing will come out of their efforts?
The UPA government, it seems is obdurate about the funny slanging match in the interlocutors team. The taint won’t disappear, however much the so-called free thinkers try. Can the country gloss over the fact that these people have sympathised with the ISI agent and accepted his hospitality?
Immediately after the team was appointed, eleven months ago, the members made astounding statements that echoed the Hurriyat’s voice. On their first visit to the Valley, on October 24, 2010. Dilip Padgoankar courted controversy by arguing for Pakistan, to involve Islamabad to resolve the Kashmir dispute. The BJP had then, accused the interlocutors of trying to internationalise the issue.
The unmasking of the ISI links following the arrest of Fai in the US, makes us suspect that the team itself was constituted by the UPA with ulterior intentions. Is it working to create more trouble and widen the divisions in the Valley?The genteel face of the Aman ki asha crowd has no other agenda than promoting ISI designs in India. The Home Ministry, intriguingly, has been trying to cover-up and protect these people. In the latest instance an RTI has sought details of Radha Kumar’s foreign travels, which she is refusing to reveal. Reports say that Prof Kumar, who has been receiving Rs 1.5 lakh a month as remuneration from the central government with other perks, automatically comes under the RTI Act. She cannot refuse to disclose information about her junkets to attend seminars sponsored by ISI outfits. MM Ansari understandably raised his voice against both Padgoankar and Kumar for accepting junkets funded by ISI.
It is not only that the whole affair of the Kashmir panel has now become too murky, but their ability to fairly and independently deal with the issue is in doubt. In the public mind these people don’t enjoy any respect or trust. The best way out for the centre now is to immediately wind up the panel and institute an inquiry into their activities in the company of Pak patriots.