//JK Round Table runs into a corner

JK Round Table runs into a corner

ROUNDTABLE MESS: Separatist groups prefered to join protests over the death of children over meeting the PM  ==  [ Updated 1131 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 25.02.06 ]

New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Kashmir Round Table initiative continues to be controversy ridden. First the separatists decided to stay away.

Then four civilians in Dudipura village in Handwara after which came the protests across the valley. Among those killed were children who were playing cricket when they fell prey to the crossfire between militants and the army. Separatists’ groups, who were already giving the Round Table initiative a miss, got another reason to support their claims. They blame the army for the deaths of innocent children.

Hurriyat Executive Leader, Bilal Lone said, "We have already said no to the Roundtable conference and we also feel that talks would be futile unless things change on the ground.”

A state wide bandh call saw violent protests near the Jama Masjid in Srinagar and in Handwara, a ban has been imposed to prevent large scale crowds.The incident has created doubts even in the minds of mainstream leaders.

National Conference MP, Omar Abdullah said, "I am in two minds whether I should go for the Round Table or not in the wake of such a gruesome incident. It is inexcusable to kill children playing cricket. But I think I will go and raise the issue there."

The Prime Minister’s biggest initiative on Kashmir it seems, is losing steam even though mainstream parties will participate and New Delhi will be talking to those who have no disagreement with its Kashmir policy. However, there have been rumours that the Separatist groups are planning to come to Delhi not to attend the conference but to boycott it and to embarass the government in doing so.There have been a lot of conspiracy theories with seven deaths in the past two days just before the Round Table is about to begin. Many feel that the peace process is trying to be sabotaged.

However, there are others who feel that the Round table initiative is just a signal to, George Bush who is all set to visit India next week, that India is serious about the peace process.

Pessimists may say that the talks have failed even before they started – because the reason for the hurry was to send signals of a forward movement in the Kashmir talks, just before the US president comes calling.However, optimists feel that even if nothing comes out, at least a beginning has been made.

(With Soni Sangwan and Shamim Meraj