To nobody’s surprise, the erstwhile Interlocutors in the very first brush, in new avatar, have run into the futility of prolonging this farce after the expiry of their paid mission last October. Their laborious ‘New Compact’ has been consigned to some dark corner of the North Block. The central government has virtually disowned the project and declared on the floor of the parliament that it had no intention to act upon the Interlocutors’ recommendations relating to Jammu and Kashmir. What then is the purpose of stretching this joke by pretending to pick up the thread from where it was left after the prescribed expiry date of the venture? The excuse that the three (ex)interlocutors were here now in a different capacity to get the ‘feedback’ from the ground does not make any sense. Feedback for what? The original report has been virtually dumped and disowned by those who had hired its authors. For sure, there are no takers for the idea in J&K, barring the solitary exception of chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Omar recently commended the Interlocutors’ mission and went on to recommend it as a basis for (elusive) dialogue between the separatist leaders and New Delhi. The chief minister must be an incorrigible optimist to entertain such fond hope even when his own National Conference party has unreservedly trashed the ‘New Compact’ because it ruled out return to ‘pre-1953’ paradigm of centre-state relationship. Omar must be daydreaming. His conduct over the issue of withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) showed that tendency. Now his misplaced optimism about the Interlocutors’ venture, despite New Delhi’s categoric disinclination , raises serious questions about his political judgement. What is there in the Interlocutors’ report that could be construed as offering a way out of the present impasse over the dialogue process?
If anything, the report as well as the recommendations made by the three non-political interlocutors reveals a painstaking effort to avoid going anywhere near the dialogue area. The logical basis on which a purposeful dialogue can take place with the separatist leaders who are among the principal stakeholders falls far beyond the scope of the so-called ‘New Compact’. Also, the interlocutors were shunned by the separatist leaders including those openly inclind to having dialogue with New Delhi. Now after the publication of the ‘New Compact’ some others have joined the chorus orchestrated by the separatists. MLA from Handwara, Engineer Rashid is an instance. He had gone out of his way to flaunt his engagement with interlocutors and chide the separatists for ‘isolating’ themselves. But today he has crossed over because compulsions of the ground reality are beginning to be felt across the board.
Going back in time, the very idea of appointing non-political interlocutors smacked of dubious intentions. The project was announced right at the time when expectations were running high in the state as well as in rest of the country that New Delhi would pick up from where the All-party delegation of parliamentarians had left it after its path-breaking visit in the thick of political crisis in 2010. The centre could not have thought of a worse way to sabotage the breakthrough than killing the nascent initiative itself. Nearly three years have been lost without making an inch of progress towards de-freezing the political situation that continues to be pregnant with all sorts of undesirable consequences.
All that the interlocutors have succeeded in achieving is that the credibility in the dialogue process has been brought down to zero. That is why even the legitimacy of pro-dialogue elements is becoming suspect in the eyes of the people who genuinely aspired for some negotiated settlement of the basic issue. To that extent the interlocutors have undoubtedly ‘succeeded’. What else they are now fishing for is exactly not clear. But whatever their objective in their new avatar it would have no relevance to the ground reality.