Sharma visits Kulgam; meets delegations amid tight security

Sharma visits Kulgam; meets delegations amid tight security
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Kulgam, Feb 23: Centre-appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma on Friday arrived in this south Kashmir district and met a number of delegations, including sports persons and civil society members, amid tight security.
The former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief — who 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 — on Thursday met many delegations in south Kashmir district of Shopian, where four civilians were killed in security force firing last month.
Meanwhile, media personnel staged protest outside District Commissioner Kulgam’s office alleging that they were stopped from covering the visit of the interlocutor, who has in the past also maintained distance from media.
Official sources said that security forces have been deployed in strength in the entire Kulgam district, particularly the main town, to prevent any militant attack or protests.
They said the roads leading to DC office Kulgam have been sealed with barbed wires and by parking police vehicles. “Only people who have valid invitation to meet the interlocutor were being allowed to go towards the DC office, to meet Sharma,” they added.
Media persons, including journalists and photo-journalists representing local and national media organisations, were stopped at the main gate of the DC office and barred from entering the premises. “We were on Thursday asked by the DC to cover the event on Friday. But later in the evening yesterday, the DC issued another order barring media from covering the event,” the protesting media personnel said.
On Thursday, Sharma met 19 delegations, including Gujjars, Transporters and sports personnel, who complaint of lack of sports infrastructure and facilities for budding players in south Kashmir. Meanwhile, a civil society group sought initiation of a meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to resolve Kashmir issue.
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.