Leh, March 11
Centre-appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma on Sunday met 18 delegations, including students, members of civil society and political workers, in Leh in Ladakh region amid tight security.
Sharma- who is a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief-is on his maiden visit to Ladakh region after being appointed as an interlocutor for Kashmir on October 23, 2017 by the Centre, to initiate a meaningful dialogue process with all stakeholders.
Official sources said after arriving in Leh on Sunday, Sharma met as many as 18 delegations, including religious groups, students and political workers. “Many demands, including demand that Ladakh region be designated as Union Territory (UT), were put forth before the interlocutor,” they added. They said Sharma will meet about nine delegations in the border town of Kargil.
Before this, the interlocutor has visited Kashmir valley and Jammu region five times since October last year. During his visits to the Valley, Sharma’s main focus was south Kashmir, which has witnessed major encounters and protests since the killing of HIzbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Burhan Wani in 2016. South Kashmir was the most affected area in the Valley during the 2016 unrest that left over 120 civilians dead and thousands wounded.
Two policemen were also killed and about 2000 security force personnel were injured during this period. Interlocutor had, during his maiden visit to the valley in November 2017, said that he will try his level best to bring the separatists onboard. However, he has not been able to make any headway as most of the trade unions and civil society leaders, apart from the separatists, have stayed away during his previous three visits.
However, Sharma is credited for the amnesty announced by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to first time stone pelters in Kashmir in November, 2017. The development had come after the Centre advised Jammu and Kashmir government to withdraw cases against about 4,500 youth, who were first-time offenders or stone-pelters.
The advice was given by the Centre on the recommendations of Mr Sharma, who is trying to woo the people, to initiate a dialogue process. The granting of amnesty to first-time stone pelters has generated hope among the general public that more such confidence building measures will be taken by the Centre and the state government in the coming days.