Shopian, Feb 22: Centre-appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma arrived on Thursday in this south Kashmir district, where he met various delegations, amid tight security.
Sharma — who is a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief – is on his fourth visit to the Valley after being appointed as an interlocutor for Kashmir on October 23, 2017 by the Centre to initiate a meaningful dialogue process with all stakeholders.
The visit of the interlocutor to Shopian comes in the backdrop of killing of four civilians in alleged security forces firing in two separate incidents last month. A civilian was killed and another injured when security forces allegedly opened fire to disperse demonstrators, who took to the streets after an encounter ensued at Chaigund Dairoo in Shopian on January 24. Three civilians died and seven others were injured when security forces allegedly opened fire after coming under heavy stone pelting at Ganawpora in Shopian.
Official sources said that security forces were been deployed in strength in the entire Shopian district, particularly the main town, to prevent any militant attack or protests.
They said the roads leading to Circuit House were sealed with barbed wires and by parking police vehicles. “Only people who have valid invitation to meet the interlocutor were allowed to go towards the Circuit House, to meet Sharma,” they added.
During the second leg of his visit to the Valley, Sharma’s main focus was on 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 2016 unrest that left over 120 civilians’ dead and thousands others wounded. Two policemen were also killed and about 2000 security force personnel injured during this period.
The interlocutor had during his maiden visit to the valley in November 2017 said that he will try his level best to bring separatists onboard. However, the interlocutor has not been able to make any headway as most of the trade unions and civil society leaders and 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 the 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 that more such confidence building measures will be taken by the centre and state government in the coming days.