Having remained in hibernation for several months, the centre’s special representative on Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, is active again and is currently meeting political leaders in the valley.

A former director of Intelligence Bureau, Sharma was appointed as centre’s representative for a dialogue with the stakeholders in Kashmir by the Modi government in 2017.

During his initial appointment, he was quite active and met separatists, political leaders and a cross-section of the society in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh but suddenly disappeared from the scene shortly before Satya Pal Malik was appointed Governor of the state.

The government was relying on bureaucratic approach, NIA and ED after NN Vohra was removed from the Raj Bhavan. But Sharma becoming active and the centre appointing Lakshadweep’s administrator, Farooq Khan, as an advisor to the J&K Governor, indicates a shift in the centre’s approach in Kashmir before the assembly elections.

Sharma met Malik in Srinagar earlier this week and apprised him about his consultations with a cross-section of the society in the State and emphasised the need for taking into account aspirations of youth and students across the State.

He also went to meet the former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah who stressed on holding early elections as the continued spell of the central rule was causing alienation among the common people.

Sharma is expected to meet other political leaders in the valley during his current visit.

During Governorship of Vohra, Sharma’s visits to the state were given prior publicity by the government but now his visits were being quietly arranged. There were reports that in a bid to soften the approach towards separatists and Hurriyat leaders, Sharma was facilitating the issuance of Indian Passport to Ghalib, who is the son of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru who was executed for his role in the attack. He had reportedly met Ghalib a few months ago.

There were reports that FIRs against nearly 11,000 Kashmiri stone-pelters were withdrawn by the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government on the suggestion of Sharma. However, FIRs filed against a couple from Jammu during the Amarnath land row agitation of 2008 were still standing.

The role of centre’s successive interlocutors on Kashmir has not been clear. Vohra was the interlocutor before being appointed the Governor in 2008, but the fate of his report was not known.