Even as the months-long unrest continues in Jammu and Kashmir, the Group of Concerned Citizens led by former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha is likely to make its second visit from November 26-28, according to sources.
"This is the tentative plan as of now though the final composition of the team is yet to crystallise," said a source, adding, "This time around, the visit will include other places such as Anantnag and Baramulla, apart from a brief visit to Srinagar." The citizens group had vociferously maintained that they were not "sponsored by anyone" though the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation played a "catalytic role" in facilitating their visits.
The other members of the Group of Concerned Citizens that visited J&K from October 25-27 included former Minorities Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, Catch News Editor Bharat Bhushan and Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Programme Director Sushobha Barve.
Visiting Srinagar in the backdrop of the unrest that began during the funeral procession of slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8, the group had met and heard out a cross-section of voices. This included Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti; former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah; Governor NN Vohra; separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq; Kashmiri pandits and other civil groups.
"It (the citizens group) had its own impact. Since there was no reach out at the government level, it came as a filler in the void created in the last four months," says Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir.
This time around, the visit will include other places such as Anantnag and Baramulla, apart from a brief visit to Srinagar. The citizens group had vociferously maintained that they were not “sponsored by anyone
With the J&K imbroglio going out of hand, it did appear that the NDA government at the Centre and the ruling PDP-BJP state alliance was struggling to see a way out of the situation. The Sinha-led group had submitted its report earlier this month to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, with a copy sent to Chief Minister Mufti. It put forward the views of the Kashmiris as they heard it—without endorsing them—on the reasons for their immediate and long-term anger, on how they viewed the actions of the security agencies or on the steps taken by the state and the central governments.
"The situation in J&K is getting worse by the day. During the early days of the protests, they were mere protests; then it turned into anger; and, now, it is turning into hatred," says another source, who didn't want to be named either. "Reaching out to the Kashmiris immediately is very critical."
There was a hint, though, in the report that the formation of the PDP-BJP alliance had in a way created deeper communal fissures and that governance was being seen as "Jammu versus Kashmir".
The report emphasised on the state and Centre finding a solution through talks. A "dialogue must begin with the inclusion of the separatist political leaders." It sought the setting up of a permanent process of dialogue with New Delhi. "Bridging the gaps between Srinagar and New Delhi is a must to bring some change on the ground," says Bukhari. Civil society can play a very important role, he adds.
The report contends that the visit of the Yashwant Sinha group was seen by the separatists and ordinary Kashmiris as a beginning of engagement with "ordinary Indians". It called for dispelling the perception that "Kashmir and Kashmiris are mere tools to be used for electoral purposes".
Though there was no official response yet from the Centre on the report, apparently the hawks were not overtly pleased by some of the recommendations. "This report was not made for the government or by the government," said a source close to the group, though insisting that the Centre should not ignore the recommendations if it hopes to find a genuine solution to the J&K problem. Any delay will only make things worse.