Meeting Kashmiri Students top of Dineshwar Sharma’s agenda, unions wary

Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, is likely to visit Jammu and Kashmir for the second time in the next couple of weeks since he was appointed the special representative to state.

The government’s pointsmen in Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, is likely to meet the Valley’s students as part of his mission to start peace talks in the state ravaged by decades-long insurgency, a senior home ministry official told KP on Friday.

Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, is likely to visit the state in the next couple of weeks for his second visit since he was appointed the Centre’s special representative to Jammu and Kashmir last month.

When contacted, Sharma told KP that he will comment only if “something concrete comes out of the meetings”.

However, Sharma briefed Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday about his plans. Sharma’s focus is also in line with Singh’s emphasis on engaging the Kashmiri youth to wean them away from militancy.

“There is a great chance that a visit to universities and colleges might take place. In case that doesn’t happen, student delegations will be invited,” said the home ministry official who did not wish to be named.

Kashmir does not have an umbrella students’ body like in many states but there are groups in some of the Valley’s main higher education centres such as Kashmir University, Central University Of Kashmir and Islamic University of Science and Technology.

However, leaders of the most prominent group, the Kashmir University Students’ Union (KUSU), is virtually “underground” with many of them facing a crackdown for alleged anti-India activities including organising and participating in protest demonstrations.

The KUSU’s office was dismantled by the varsity administration in May 2010 and authorities do not have an idea of the number of its members.

KP contacted a few student leaders who denied being “official members” of the union but said they shared its “ideology”.

“If and when he (Sharma) decides to visit KU a decision will be arrived at after reaching a mutual consensus among the students, one of them said in a text message.

“Since the interlocutor has already presumed that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is not a stakeholder to the dialogue process, we have no reason to project ourselves as false stakeholders like many small groups have done on Mr Interlocutor’s first visit,” the student said.

The Hurriyat is an umbrella body of political groups fighting mostly for Kashmir’s secession from India.

Though Sharma is mandated to meet all stakeholders in the valley, the Hurriyat has said no dialogue is possible unless the Centre accepts the Kashmir dispute as a political issue.

A former KUSU activist also did not view Sharma’s visit with optimism.

“On one side, security forces have launched Operation All Out and on the other the National Investigation Agency is conducting raids and making arrests,” he said.

He added that many people who were detained during last year’s unrest were being held repeatedly under the Public Safety Act, described by many in Kashmir as a tool to put dissenters behind bars.

“There are at least one dozen cordon-and-search operations going every day,” the former student added.

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