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Separatists deflate Kashmir round-table balloon

Written by: Staff

Srinagar, Feb 22 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's bold initiative to convene a roundtable conference on Kashmir has suffered a setback after majority of separatist and a few top political leaders rejected outright their participation in the meet, citing different reasons for their refusal.

Prominent separatist groups such as the moderate Hurriyat Conference, the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the People's Conference, the Kashmir Bar Association and the breakaway Hurriyat Conference have all declined to attend the roundtable in New Delhi on February 25.

Significantly, among these groups the moderate Hurriyat Conference, the JKLF and the People's Conference have already held talks with the Prime Minister.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) chief patron Farooq Abdullah and former state Tourism Minister and dissident Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Ghulam Hassan Mir too have refused to attend the roundtable.

The first to deflate the round-table balloon was DFP chief Shabir Ahmed Shah who had rejected participation in the conference, saying time was not conducive for holding such a meet.

The DFP Chief said participation of the separatist leadership in such a roundtable conference without a joint strategy would create nothing but confusion among the people.

Then came the decision by breakaway Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani that he would not attend the meet, saying the ongoing two-year-old peace process had failed to produce the desired results.

The firebrand leader said he was dissatisfied with the progress of the peace process and also that the Centre was yet to exhibit any flexibility on the Kashmir issue.

Moderate Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq too decided to stay away from the roundtable, saying time was not appropriate to convene such a meeting which would only ''create confusion''.

However, the Mirwaiz said the separatist amalgam would remain a part of the dialogue process with the Centre and Pakistan.

''The Prime Minister announced the round-table without any agenda,'' he added.

JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, People's Conference chief Sajjad Ghani Lone and the Kashmir Bar Association have also declined the invite.


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