Sharma Interlocutor

Activists of Youth Forum for Kashmir march during a protest in Lahore Oct. 27, 2017. Kashmiris protesters are observing 'Black Day' to mark the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by India. Dineshwar Sharma arrived in Kashmir Nov. 6 to begin talks as the Center’s interlocutor in an effort to seek peace and stability in the region. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

SRINAGAR — Amid a separatist boycott, former spy chief Dineshwar Sharma, the Center's interlocutor, kick-started Kashmir talks Nov. 6 and met representatives of about half a dozen apolitical organizations at a Srinagar high security guest house that served as an interrogation center during the peak years of militancy in the 1990s.

Informed sources said those who met Sharma at the Hari Niwas state guest house on Gupkar Road included representatives of tribal Gujjars and Bakerwal organizations, tour and travel operators, shikara owners, fruit and saffron growers and artisans.

Sharma, who served as assistant director of the Intelligence Bureau in the state from 1992-94 when militancy was at its peak, started his five-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir Nov. 6.

Immediately after his arrival in Srinagar, Sharma, who has a cabinet secretary rank and has been given Z security, drove in an SUV to the state guest house that was previously codenamed Papa II and served as a joint interrogation center operated by the Border Security Force until 1996 when it was shut down.

The sources said the delegation members highlighted their problems during their meeting with Sharma who listened to them "patiently."

Political party representatives did not visit him on him on the first day of his five-day stay in the state to start the multi-layered dialogue process.

The opposition National Conference said they had yet to receive an invitation from Sharma.

He is scheduled to stay in the valley for three days to meet political parties, socio-cultural organizations, individuals and opinion makers before moving onto Jammu.

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik have jointly declined to meet the interlocutor, calling his appointment a time-buying tactic "adopted under international pressure and regional compulsions."

Sources in the separatist camp said the officials have made attempts to persuade Geelani, the octogenarian head of the Hurriyat Conference, to meet Sharma.

"While Geelani does not oppose a dialogue process but at the same time he is not ready to facilitate a process that is aimed at delaying rather than resolving the basic issue," said a Geelani aide.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said Nov. 5 that he did not expect much from the new process.

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