India

Modi government breaking away from Vajpayee legacy: Separatist leaders

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SEPARATIST_LEADERS

Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit.

Kashmir separatist leaders on Tuesday accused the Narendra Modi government of breaking away from the legacy of former Prime Minister Atal behari Vajpayee by deploying a hardline strategy towards the Kashmir issue, which, they said, could push the Valley back into violence.

Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Tuesday, while Shabir Shah had met Mr. Basit on Monday.

The leaders said India was being “unrealistic” and “naive” in expecting Pakistan to change their policy towards Kashmir.

“It cannot just be wished away… by cancelling talks or isolating the pro-freedom leadership… when you talk about being a strong and powerful nation you also have to show a sense of responsibility,” the Mirwaiz told The Hindu.

“We were hopeful when Mr. Modi had publicly said he would follow the Vajpayee model (on Kashmir) but it seems the government has completely sidelined (Mr. Vajpayee),” said Mr. Farooq.

The meetings — according to leaders who spoke to The Hindu — were “aimed at consolidating the different voices, the way forward and how we can make a breakthrough”.

“The present dispensation is only focused on development and economic incentives and packages…they are making the same mistakes as their predecessors from Congress did…the people (in Kashmir) predominantly want a political solution,” said Mr. Farooq.

“We will ask Pakistan to continue their efforts to engage India…I hope this is a temporary setback,” Mr. Farooq said before heading for the meeting.

“People have been talking about the hidden agenda of the RSS (behind cancellation of talks)…if that’s the case then we are definitely heading towards confrontation… for the whole region…nobody wants that…our whole agenda is to engage with both (Pakistan and India) governments,” he said.

JKLF leader Mr. Malik said Kashmir was not an ordinary territorial dispute to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

“The Kahsmiri people have a legitimate, legal right to be a part of any kind of negotiating settlement between India and Pakistan,” he said.

Mr. Malik said previous prime ministers “used to facilitate these meetings” but the new government “wants a hardline policy”.

“Indian civil society played a vital role in Kashmir by facilitating a transition from violent militancy to a non-violent democratic movement… by isolating pro-freedom leadership and choking the democratic political space does the government want to push them back to a violent past,” he asked.

Asked why they had all met Mr. Basit separately, Mr. Malik said it was the Pakistan High Commission that had invited them.

“We did not approach them for a meeting… they invited us,” he said.
(The Hindu)

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