The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hurriyat leaders meet Sonia

New Delhi, March 15: For the first time since the installation of the People’s Democratic Party-Congress government in Jammu and Kashmir in October, senior Hurriyat leaders met Congress president Sonia Gandhi today to apprise her of their views on the situation in the state.

Former Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and senior member Yaseen Malik met Sonia at her 10 Janpath home for over 35 minutes late this evening. The Ettehadul Musalmeen leader, Khalil Mohammad, accompanied them.

When the Hurriyat leaders emerged from 10 Janpath, they avoided meeting the journalists waiting outside.

Senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh, who was present at the meeting, told reporters that the discussions between the two sides were “informal and general”. The Hurriyat leaders, he said, briefed Sonia about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as they perceived it.

Reports, however, have been doing the rounds that the Hurriyat leaders intended to brief the Leader of the Opposition about the harassment they were suffering allegedly at the hands of the NDA government at the Centre, including alleged curtailment of their religious freedom.

After they boycotted the October Assembly polls, the Hurriyat leaders have been finding themselves increasingly isolated, both politically and diplomatically.

They are in the capital now to interact with political leaders and Delhi-based foreign diplomats, presumably to maintain their relevance to the promised peace process in the state.

The Centre and the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government have virtually ignored the Hurriyat over the past few months.

Sonia reportedly did not wish to be seen as attaching too much importance to her interaction with the Hurriyat leaders. So the Congress chose to keep the meeting a “low-key affair”.

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