Even as India is voting in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, senior separatist leader and Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on Sunday, said that the separatists were ready to support talks between India and Pakistan provided India accepts Kashmir as a dispute.

Farooq, who was speaking at a seminar organised by the Hurriyat Conference in Srinagar said, “We are not against either the people of India or development. If India and Pakistan initiate a dialogue, we are ready to support it, but India must first accept the basic reality that there can be no military solution to the Kashmir dispute,” while adding that the Hurriyat Conference was against India’s policies which were presently being implemented in Kashmir.

“It is unfortunate that New Delhi has choked all means of peaceful protest in the Valley. Even pro-freedom leaders are not allowed to meet the people. How can ideas come up if all spaces are choked?” he asked.

Referring to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Farooq said that the late PM had realised that the only possible solution to the Kashmir dispute could be found through a dialogue process.

He also demanded that the Centre withdraw the bans imposed on different organisations in Kashmir.

The Union Home Ministry earlier this year had banned the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and the Yasin Malik-headed Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

Following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, the Centre had withdrawn the security cover of five top separatists, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi and Shabir Shah.

Earlier this year, in January, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had drawn a lot of flak after Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had called him up.

Farooq is also being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a terror funding case.

(With IANS inputs)