December 1999 News

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Advani takes hard line with Hurriyat

8 December 1999
The Asian Age
Seema Mustafa

New Delhi: Union home minister L.K. Advani has decided to take a hard line on Kashmir and has rejected the offer of talks by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Instead, key leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, along with 13 others, have been locked up in Jodhpur jail for a minimum period of two years.

The Hurriyat, along with its former chairman Omar Farooq, had made repeated offers of unconditional talks with the Union government, pointing out that the people of Kashmir should be involved in the dialogue about their future. Mr Advani has refused to respond to the initiative even though the Hurriyat had stated very categorically that it was willing for talks with Delhi without Pakistan. Rumours of a second-level dialogue between Hurriyat leaders and emissaries of the Vajpayee government were denied by Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone, who told The Asian Age on Wednesday that "all this is completely baseless, there have been no talks and now what is the point of talking as the government has imprisoned our people for two years."

Instead he and Mr Omar Farooq met Pakistan high commissioner to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi recently and were informed that there was also little likelihood of the talks between Pakistan and India taking place at this stage. Mr Lone, who was very unhappy about the arrests, said, "Obviously the government of India is suffering from the arrogance of power. It is like inviting people to dinner and then hitting them." The detention period had been extended wilfully, he said, from one month to two years. Both Mr Lone and Mr Malik, he said, were ailing and in need of regular medical attention.

Mr Advani is not keen to have any dialogue with the extremist groups in the Valley although there are two views on this within the government. He has instructed the central security forces in the Valley to take the offensive in countering terrorism, which has increased after the Kargil conflict. The Hurriyat, which had been offering to dilute its position to facilitate a dialogue, has met with a cold response from the government.

Hurriyat leaders are arrested as a matter of course in the Valley and released shortly after. These arrests were made between September 8 and September 15 with about 25 activists and their supporters imprisoned for inciting violence. The key leaders were shifted to Jodhpur jail on a non-bailable warrant and the imprisonment period has now been extended to two years.

Mr Advani has also promised a white paper on ISI activities in Kashmir and the rest of the country. He has been holding high-level meetings on security and development in Jammu and Kashmir with the state chief minister and other Cabinet colleagues in Delhi. The meetings decided to mount a full offensive against terrorism although the aspect of finance and development was referred to a sub-committee on the issue. The Hurriyat, on the other hand, has been complaining of human rights violations and excesses by the security forces.

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