People of Jammu and Kashmir appear indifferent to the recent meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York where problems of their state occupied centrestage.
The man on the street was more interested in the Toronto Sahara Cup cricket series than the happenings in New York. Nothing is going to change. Let them talk a hundred times, said a cynical Abdul Rashid Dar, a trader.
Mohammad Abdullah, a lawyer, felt that the talks were leading the two countries nowhere. It was time the two sought intervention and mediation by a third country. There are certain ground realities which need to be taken into account and India should behave in a realistic manner, he said.
Ironically, there was a step up in violence in Kashmir even as Indian Prime Minister I. K. Gujral and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif were talking on ways to end hostilities on the Line of Control (LOC), the contentious borderline dividing Jammu and Kashmir.
One Indian soldier was killed and another wounded in firing by Pakistani troops in Kargil sector on the day. An Indian Army Major was ambushed and killed by militants in the northwestern frontier district of Kupwara.
The same day, militants gunned down eight Hindu villagers in the hamlet of Sarwari in the frontier district of Rajouri.
Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah blamed Pakistan-sponsored militants for the massacre. He questioned the sincerity of Pakistan in improving bilateral ties.
Terrorism and friendship cannot go together, he said.
Director general of police Gurbachan Jagat said the firing on the border and the stepped up militant violence in Kashmir were interlinked. Kashmiri observers said this could also be a move by Pakistan to heighten tension to invite attention and intervention of the third country.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a combine of some 30 pro-secession parties, too saw nothing positive in the discussions of the two Prime Ministers in New York.
The outcome of these talks was already known, APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said. He pointed out that such talks in the past had yielded nothing and a Kashmir solution cannot be found unless representatives of Kashmiris were involved in the talks.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir police have sought forensic help to identify a body suspected to be that of one of the four foreign tourists kidnapped by the guerilla outfit, Al-Faran, in July 1995.
Director general of Jammu and Kashmir police Gurbachan Jagat said yesterday that forensic experts help has been sought to verify the claim of an arrested militant, who claimed to be one of the eyewitnesses of the burial of the foreigners.
Jagat declined to divulge the name of the witness. He, however, said that the witness simply informed us that one of the hostages was buried in his presence. The informer didnt know the exact identity of the foreigner.
The police exhumed a body after digging several graves at Akingam, a village on the outskirts of the south Kashmir town of Anantnag, about 60 kilometres south of Srinagar. Jagat said there was no flesh on the exhumed body.
It is merely a skeleton and that is why further tests were required. Asked if the police were contacting family members of any of the hostages to conduct DNA tests, the police chief said, We are working on it.
Four foreigners were abducted from trekking routes of mountains surrounding Pahalgam, a tourist resort some 100 kilometres from Srinagar two years ago.
American Donald Hutchings, two Britons, Paul Wells and Keith Mangan, were taken hostage from Lidderval on the afternoon of July 4, 1995, while German Dirik Hasert was abducted from Zujibal, about 20 kilometres from the first abduction site. Another American John Childs, who was also abducted on July 4, had managed to escape on the third day of his captivity.
Norwegian Hans Christian Ostroe, abducted on July 9, was killed. His beheaded body was found on a road near Punzmulla, a village close to Pahalgam. The Al-Faran had demanded the release of 15 of their guerillas in custody.