Polls helped us: Hizbul Mujahideen chief
5 October 2002
The Indian Express
New Delhi: In his first formal interview to a news organisation since the election process started, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin has denied that militants were behind attacks on party workers, candidates and polling booths which have left 300 people, including 144 militants, dead. In the interview to Pakistani television channel Geo TV Network, Salahuddin said the anti-poll violence was primarily an outcome of animosity between the ruling National Conference and the Opposition Congress and Peoples’ Democratic Party, who used surrendered militants to settle scores. ‘‘We only attacked security forces who were forcing people to vote,’’ he added. Salahuddin also said that the fact that the ‘‘voter turnout was lower than 1996’’ was ‘‘our success’’. ‘‘No major Indian politician with national stature came to Kashmir to address any rally. The Congress said the NC was an ally of the BJP, which killed Muslims in Gujarat. So pro- India parties were exploiting Gujarat in Kashmir. Kashmiris realised that if these parties did not protect Muslims in Gujarat, how could they protect them in Kashmir? In fact, the Congress indirectly supported us. The polls helped us a lot.’’ Incidentally, contrary to Salahuddin’s claims, the BSF today arrested from the heart of Srinagar seven Hizbul men and claimed that they had confessed that they were involved in 10 militant strikes in the city on September 6 and September 17. These apparently include the two assaults on the PCC office in Srinagar. The men have reportedly also admitted that they had plans to target political leaders who participated in the election process. But if Salahuddin is to be believed, the attacks are a handiwork of state parties. ‘‘The NC has a lot of enemies in the Congress, BJP and PDP. They create problems for each other...We only attack Indian troops who force people to come out for votes on gunpoint.’’ Asked about the killing of J-K Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, Salahuddin said: ‘‘It was easy to kill Mushtaq Lone as he didn’t have much security. Why was he killed during election days when he had a lot of security around him?’’ His explanation is that Lone had enemies in the state establishment. While he admitted that Ali Mohammad Rather who is said to have killed Lone was ‘‘with us in HM’’, he added he had surrendered recently. Salahuddin also rejected any possibility of a ceasefire saying that his outfit was cautious after a bad experience of July 2000, ‘‘when we announced a ceasefire and India tried to use it to create a misunderstanding between us and Pakistan’’.