This was prime minister’s second meeting with a leader of a separatist group outside the fold of the All Party Hurriyat Conference as part of efforts to broaden the dialogue on Kashmir. Last month, he had met People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone.
Malik, who was released from jail in 1994 after four years, renounced the use of violence to attain the goal of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He has been mobilising in India and Pakistan. "Don’t humiliate the Kashmiris, trust them and take them along with you as it is their destiny which is being decided," Malik told IANS ahead of his meeting with the prime minister.
He presented Manmohan Singh a copy of 1.5 million signatures of Kashmiris collected by JKLF during a 2004 campaign calling for Kashmir’s independence. "The names and addresses of every signatory can be verified and ascertained. The signatures are testimony to the fact that Kashmiris want to be heard and I hope the message is driven home," said Malik. "Both India and Pakistan have been claiming that the ongoing peace dialogue is irreversible. But where do the Kashmiris figure in the scheme of things?
"Decisions about their future have been made by others and later communicated to them. Is that fair?" he asked. Malik said the optimism in the peace process with Pakistan was not reflected on the ground in Kashmir. "Unless the ordinary Kashmiri folk are taken into and also roped into the decision making process, what meaning does the dialogue have?"
The prime minister’s talks with Malik came a week before his proposed round-table talks with political leaders, separatists, NGOs and other groups from Kashmir.Except for the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) headed by Shabir Ahmed Shah, who has rejected the , all others have agreed to come. The list of invitees for the Feb 24 meeting includes mainstream political leaders from the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, National Conference, People’s , Communist Party of India-Marxist, Panthers’ Party, besides the moderate faction of the Hurriyat headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Peoples’ Conference.