No Azadi, no Pakistan in Lone’s Kupwara rally
1 July 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Srinagar: Twenty thousand people today participated in a rally at Kupwara to pay homage to the separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, who was gunned down by unidentified assassins at Iddgah Grounds here 40 days ago. Lone’s political successors—elder son Bilal and younger son Sajjad— had not invited any of the Hurriyat leaders for the historic rally which, significantly, avoided the traditional pro-Azadi and pro- Pakistan slogans. Peoples’ Conference, a political party which late Abdul Gani Lone founded and represented in the Hurriyat Executive Council, organised the massive rally to prove its vital claim: That it had the capacity and potential to pull big crowds independently; and, that its political ideology vis-a-vis the Kashmir problem and its solution could not be ignored in any forum. See pic on page 12 On the 100-Km Srinagar-Kupwara road, it appeared that Police and security forces had specific instructions to view the rally with a positive sense. They stood guard against any possible attempt to disrupt the procession. Senior Police officials were themselves on the dais, at the playfield of Higher Secondary School Kupwara, to ensure that no untowards incident did take place anywhere around the venue. Over 90% of the participants were from Lone’s home district of Kupwara, though about a dozen vehicle carried people from Beerwah area. Bilal and Sajjad Lone led and addressed the gathering with tremendous enthusiasm among the participants, who shouted devout slogans like Jeevay Jeevay Lone Jeevay, Lone Hamara Shera hai baqee hera phera hai, Asia ka buland sitara Lone hamara Lone hamara, Sajjad Lone aage badho ham tumhare saath hain. Some people in the rally yelled the popular traditional slogan Ham kya chahte Azadi (we want freedom) but few of the participants chose to respond. There were absolutely no pro-Pakistan slogans. The Lones had distributed among their devout followers about 5,000 white and blue T-shirts specially imported from Dubai. These had all Mr Abdul Gani Lone’s portraits printed on the front. ‘Martyr to Peace’ was Lone’s description on all T-shirts. Bilal, dressed in white Kurta Pyjama, and Sajjad wearing a similar pair in black led the 200-vehicle caravan. Sajjad Lone was the star speaker. His address to the gathering— as also his tone and tenor in delivering ambiguities and obscurities—was pregnant with meanings. Meanings that may not augur well for the rigid course adopted by Kashmir’s separatist leaders for years. He did not refer to Azadi and Pakistan. He stressed on peace. He condemned all killings including those of the ruling National Conference activists. He lashed out on non-resident Kashmiri leaders who, according to him, had developed ''vested interest in Kashmir’s bloodshed'' and who were ''a big stumbling block'' in resolution of the Kashmir crisis. ''Jammu and Kashmir is neither anybody’s jugular vein nor anybody’s integral part'', Sajjad said while weighing Pakistan and India in one balance. But, again he avoided reference to the traditional separatist phrases like martyrs, Jihad and Azadi. He said that his father had been eliminated by ''those who thought that, after Mr Lone’s Sher-e-Kashmir Park rally in 2000, their political shops would have to be shut down''. ''They are very much in Kashmir. They are also here'', Sajjad said of the assassins of his father. Sajjad held four particular groups of people responsible for Lone’s broad daylight murder: Those who paved the way for assassination (an obvious reference to National Conference government’s act of reducing Abdul Gani Lone’s security); those who created the atmosphere by saying that Mr Lone had returned from Sharjah with a sell-out on Kashmir (a reference to two Hurriyat leaders’ public statements before the assassination); those who conceived the plot; and, those who worked as mercenaries. He assured the gathering that all of his father’s killers would live to rue the assassination. The junior Lone sweared that he would not lie in unmasking the assassins. He said that he had taken this pledge at his father’s tomb early this morning. Earlier, Bilal Lone expressed his gratitude to the people of Kupwara for attending the remembrance rally in big numbers. He declared that late Lone’s ''mission for peace'' would be taken to its logical conclusion in any circumstances. One Karan Singh from Kathua was the only speaker out of the Lone family. In his brief speech, he urged Government of India to stop human rights abuse in Kashmir. This was second time in the last 10 years that over 20,000 people participated in a separatist leader’s rally in the Valley. In August 1994, over 70,000 Kashmiris had attended another separatist leader Shabir Shah’s rally, on occasion of his release from jail, at historic Lal Chowk in the capital city.