SRINAGAR: The Centre's interlocutor on Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, on Sunday visited the militancy-infested Pulwama in south Kashmir on his second visit to Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with at least a dozen delegations and individuals.
Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, arrived in Srinagar this afternoon after spending two days in Jammu, where he met about 50 delegations.
After landing in Srinagar, Sharma visited south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which is militancy infested and which was the epicenter of over five month long unrest in the Valley last year following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.
Sharma, who was appointed as interlocutor by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on October 23 to hold sustained dialogue with all stakeholders in the State, stayed in the Circuit House in Deputy Commissioner Pulwama’s office.
The security forces had made tight security arrangements for Sharma’s visit to Pulwama. All roads leading to Deputy Commissioner’s office and the Circuit House were sealed. The security personnel had beefed up their patrolling in the area and armoured vehicles were deployed around the Deputy Commissioner’s office as a security measure.
The interlocutor met atleast a dozen delegations including civil society members Pulwama, a group of elderly citizens, all-girls group and a youth delegation besides some individuals.
An elderly resident, who was part of three member delegation, said they told Sharma that he should meet the Hurriyat leaders to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“We told him that Kashmir issue should not be pushed to backburner. It should be resolved as early as possible,” he said.
He said they told him that youth booked under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) should be released.
“People should come forward and talk to interlocutor. If talks are being held told, result will also yield,” he added.
A member of Civil Society Pulwama said they discussed the Kashmir issue with Sharma.
“We told him that you should talk to the main stakeholder, Hurriyat Conference. They are representatives of Kashmir society and this people and it is must you should talk to them. They have got a representative character and for resolving the Kashmir issue, talk should be held with them,” he said.
He said Sharma told them that he would try to meet Hurriyat leaders to restore peace and tranquility in the State.
A delegation of youth apprised Sharma about the use of excessive force by security forces to quell protests in the Valley.
They told him that youth arrested by police for participating in protests after last year’s unrest should be released. They also demanded that security forces should stop harassing the people of south Kashmir for participating in anti-India protests last year after Burhan’s killing.
The youth delegation also demanded release of photo-journalist Kamran Yousuf, who has been arrested by NIA for allegedly inciting stone pelting.
Sources said Sharma is likely to visit volatile Anantnag district of south Kashmir tomorrow.
All four districts of south Kashmir Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam are militancy infested and according to security officials 100-120 militants are active in the region.
On Sharma’s recommendations after his first visit to the State and on advise of Union Ministry of Home Affairs, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has decided to grant amnesty to first time stone pelters and ordered review of cases of the youth booked for stone pelting by police in the Valley from 2015 onwards.
Thousands of youth against whom cases for stone pelting were registered y police in Valley since 2015 are likely to benefit from the amnesty.
It remains to be seen whether Sharma would be sending an invitation to the separatist leaders, who refused to meet him during his first visit to the State
The traders and civil society members in Kashmir had also refused to meet Sharma during his first visit as interlocutor to the State.