VETERAN CONGRESS LEADER SAYS HE WILL CONTINUE HIS EFFORTS FOR RESTORING PEACE AND NORMALCY IN KASHMIR
Abdul Bari Masoud | Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI — Unfazed by BJP’s criticism attacking his meeting with separatist Hurriyat leaders, senior Congress leader, former Union Minister and diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar said he would continue his efforts for bringing about peace and sustained normalcy in the Kashmir Valley. He said the BJP does not know or understand the Kashmir problem.
Stoutly defending his meeting with Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir, Aiyar told Caravan Daily that “he does not care much about the BJP’s criticism”. He also said he has his “own mind” on the Kashmir issue and wants meaningful and uninterrupted dialogue with all stakeholders must be started without any further delay for.
Aiyar led a civil society delegation that included Air Vice Marshal (retired) Kapil Kak, OP Shah, Chairman of the Center for Peace and Progress, and senior journalist Vinod Sharma to Kashmir recently.
The five-member peace delegation met many stakeholders of the Kashmir problem including Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Shabbir Shah and others. The BJP had raised a hue and cry on Aiyar’s meeting with the separatists while it has conveniently forgotten that its own senior leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha has been doing the same thing.
Speaking to Caravan Daily, Aiyar said the BJP is criticizing him because of what they are doing and not doing in Kashmir.
When told that the BJP is using his meeting with Hurriyat leaders to corner the Congress party, Aiyar quipped, “What does the BJP know about Kashmir per se? They know nothing. The BJP has been criticizing me, but I have nothing but contempt for them. I have nothing to say.”
He also took a dig at Bollywood actor Anupam Kher for criticizing his meeting with Hurriyat leaders. The Congress leader said Kher lives in a mansion in Bombay and had not visited Kashmir to take stock of the situation for decades.
“If in his ignorance he wishes to criticize me then I welcome his criticism and I will give a response to the people of Kashmir.”
When asked why his own party Congress had distanced itself from his meetings with Hurriyat leaders, he said it never recognized those who are “unelectable and unrepresentative.” Aiyar said he is very concerned about the Kashmir situation and wanted to work for peace.
“I am concerned about the situation in Kashmir and the Congress Working Committee also had shown the same concern about Kashmir.”
In reply to another question whether he will chart a separate line on Kashmir, quoting Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, Aiyar said he is a member of the Congress party but he has his own mind on Kashmir.
The Congress obliquely defended Aiyar’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders by saying that “There are enough leaders of the BJP who are meeting separatists and the Prime Minister is silent.”