Shabir Shah, Bhat under house arrest
5 September 2002
The Times of India
NILANJANA BHADURI JHA
NEW DELHI: Top Hurriyat leaders, including chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat, and separatist leader Shabir Shah have been placed under house arrest in Srinagar. The Hurriyat has condemned the move, saying it is aimed at scuttling dialogue. The 23-member coalition and Shah are boycotting the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which begin this month. Confirming that all senior Hurriyat Conference leaders had been placed under house arrest since about 7 am on Friday, Hurriyat staff members told Time News Network on telephone that even the Hurriyat headquarters in Srinagar at Raj Bagh had been surrounded by the BSF, CRPF and J&K police. ''Nobody is being allowed to go in or come out'', a Hurriyat staffer said. Bhat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Javed Ahmed Mir of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front were to leave for Delhi for talks with Kashmir Committee chief Ram Jethmalani on Friday afternoon, but the visit has been postponed in view of the house arrest. Among those placed under house arrest are Bhat, Maulana Ahmed Ansari, Mir and Sajjad Lone. Bilal Lone of the People''s Conference is in the Capital. ''Mirwaiz''s house arrest is yet to be confirmed but there is movement of security personnel around his house too'', the staffer said. Agency reports said Shabir Shah too was under house arrest. The separatist leader, just back from the Capital after extensive talks both with the Kashmir Committee as well as political leaders, had on Thursday said he would boycott the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls. The Hurriyat has already said it will not participate in the coming elections and will also run an anti-poll campaign. Condemning the move, Bilal Lone, who is here after a surgery, said ''I talked to my brother Sajjad in Srinagar. No explanations have been given for the house arrest save that the orders came from higher up. It is clear they don''t want us to participate in talks''. Lone said the issue was not what the Hurriyat would discuss with Jethmalani or whether the talks would yield any immediate results. ''I don''t think anything will come of this house arrest. It should not have been done. We want positive talks on the Kashmir issue and we are ready for dialogue, but both sides have to be positive.'' Reiterating that the Hurriyat would not participate in the elections this time, Lone said polls themselves were not the important thing, merely a process. ''Why are people obsessed with elections. It is more important to talk for resolution of the Kashmir issue.'' He praised the Kashmir Committee initiative under Jethmalani, but wondered whether it would carry any weight with the Centre.