Srinagar: Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday met separatist Hurriyat leader Seyd Ali Shah Geelani at his residence to reduce tension by talks in the valley.
Speaking to the media persons, Sinha said, "We are not here as a part of any delegation. We are people of good will. We are here for humanity and our aim is to share the pain and grief of the people in the Kashmir valley."
The delegation members were seen entering the highly fortified house where Geelani has been kept under detention for over three months.
The team includes former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah, who has served in Jammu and Kashmir, ex-Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist Sushobha Barve landed in Srinagar and straight away drove to Geelani's residence in Hyderpora.
They are also expected to meet other separatist leaders, including moderate Hurriyat head Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik. And after two months of detention at a guest-house-turned-jail in Srinagar, the Mirwaiz is now under house arrest at his upscale Nigeen residence. Malik has also been moved from jail to a Srinagar hospital after his health deteriorated.
On September 4, after turning down chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's invitation for talks on Kashmir issue, separatist leaders Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq refused to meet an all-party delegation led by CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Meanwhile, sources in the government clarified that Sinha's meeting with the separatists is not a part of Centre's move to ensure peace in the valley.
This meeting has got nothing to meet with the government. The meeting was not fixed with knowledge of government. This can be seen as an independent attempt to reach out to separatists," sources said.
Separatist Shahid Islam, welcomed Sinha's initiative. "It's a goodwill gesture," he added.
The fresh bid to break ice between separatist groups and the government comes after 108 days of unrest and shutdown that have disrupted normal life in the Kashmir Valley since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
At least 92 persons were killed and over 12,000 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces.
Police have arrested over 7,000 suspected ring leaders of stone throwers. Some have been let off.
Sinha and his team are also expected to meet civil society and trade groups including the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) and the Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS).They will call on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Governor N.N. Vohra.