February 2003 News

Militants Withdraw Support Of Silence From Mufti

4 February 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: The darkroom bonhomie of the Azadi camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is coming to a head. While the separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference is still stammering in its criticism of the new coalition Government, Kashmiri militant outfits are now putting out virulent statements against the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed one after another. Before and during the recent Assembly elections, Mufti Sayeed had successfully neutralised the Hurriyat with his forceful advocacy of 'talks with all sections of Kashmiri leadership'. On all occasions, he had emerged as an ardent pleader of the proposal that the Kashmir dispute be solved through talks with the Hurriyat and militants. Neither the Hurriyat nor militants were left with any justification to strike on Mufti or his candidates. As the militants focused the whole of their offensive on Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference, Mufti and his firebrand daughter, Mehbooba, ran a sustained campaign against the 'POTA sarkar'. They told fellow Kashmiris, at all election rallies, that the draconian anti-terrorism law would be frozen, political detenues (including arrested militants against whom the state had no evidence) would be set free and the dreaded counter-insurgent force, Special Operations Group (SOG), would be disbanded. Given a choice between NC and PDP, the Muftis were obviously acceptable to the separatist camp. What happened after Mufti’s becoming the head of the coalition Government, in a sequence, has visibly disappointed the crusaders and advocates of Azadi. First time in the 14-year-long history of the armed turmoil, Government of India suspended passports of separatist leaders and conveyed it to them that a new chapter of politics had begun. Leaders, who would earlier enjoy every moment of leisure with Europian diplomats and American tours, are now virtually out-of- business. Mufti has successfully gone low-key and even publicly flayed suspension of passports but many in the local separatist camp believe that the Centre would have never taken such unprecedented decisions without seeking the Chief Minister’s approval. Mufti’s plan, according to a separatist leader who wished anonymity, was to castrate the Hurriyat leadership to the extent that it found no option other than coming forward for talks. 'We believe in talks too, but Mufti Saheb wants everything settled in favour of New Delhi', said the separatist leader. He admitted that by launching populist measures like removal of encroachments and raising high expectations about Government jobs, Mufti had succeeded in pulling thick crowds almost everywhere in the Valley. 'But this will be a temporary phase. Candidly, Farooq Abdullah had a similar response in 1996', asserted the separatist leader. According to him, Kashmiris wanted two things simultaneously: Azadi and the Government jobs. This is frankly endorsed by former 'chief commander' of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and today’s Hurriyat activist, Javed Mir. 'When I was the Azadi hero in 1990, people took me to Hazratbal on their shoulders. They filled my pockets with papers. I thought it was all money. When I opened, I found all the 72 applications demanding Government jobs', said Javed. In the process of getting thick crowds in his public rallies, Mufti has justifiably relegated the issue of releasing the detenues to the backburner. 'You journalists must see the difference between what the (separatist) leaders desire and what the common Kashmiri people demand', said a PDP leader. 'We have given them better electricity; custodial killings have been stopped at once; and, we are struggling for a major economic and developmental package from New Delhi', added he. He and almost everybody else in the ruling party sound indifferent to criticism that Mufti was backtracking on his election promises. Paradoxically, only a few detenues have been released by the Mufti Government and suspension of POTA is attributed to the nation-wide stand over the law by PDP’s ally, Congress (I). In fact, the old system of releasing detenues by Screening Committees headed by concerned Deputy Commissioners, has been replaced with a new arrangement in which representatives of the Union Home Ministry are calling the shots. Disbanding of the SOG has been replaced by Mufti’s announcement that a new counter-insurgent force (Jammu & Kashmir Voluntary Force) would be posted at all Police stations. Obviously, neither Mufti nor anyone else can ignore the line of demarcation between being the head of a political party and being the Chief Minister of a State. Mufti’s one-time well-wishers in separatist camp and militants have noted it with concern that the Chief Minister had not only roped in Zee TV to establish a Kashmiri channel but he had demanded serials on the 'nation’s heroes like Maqbool Sherwani'. Sherwani, who had helped Indian troops against the tribal raids in 1947, had been bumped off by Pakistanis in Baramulla. Militants are still holding their guns back but they have begun desperate attempts to check Mufti’s advances. During the last three days, three formidable Kashmiri groups—Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamiatul Mujahideen and Tehreekul Mujahideen—have issued hard-hitting statements warning Mufti against conducting the proposed elections for Municipalities and Notified Area Committees. Hizbul Mujahideen has labelled Mufti as a man carrying 'sweet poison for Kashmir’s freedom struggle'. Jamiatul Mujahideen, three of whose old functionaries have been sentenced to life term the other day, has spewed similar venom against the Chief Minister and alleged that he was functioning as an Indian agent. Tehrekul Mujahideen today asserted that nothing but gun would solve the Kashmir problem. It dismissed the civic body polls as 'rubbing salt on the wounds of Kashmiris'. 'We have begun to perceive the truth about Mufti', said Hizb and Tehreek, which lent the support of silence to PDP in the Assembly elections and even thereafter. However, the fact remains that MLA Pampore, Abdul Aziz Mir, continues to be the only PDP activist gunned down in Kashmir till date. The day militants struck on someone more, will be the real turning point.


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