February 2004 News

Hurriyat Sends List Of 10 Militants To Be Freed, Centre Politely Says Sorry

7 February 2004
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Days after it helped the release of 34 political detainees in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre quietly but firmly turned down another wishlist of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) for the release of 10 Kashmiri militants currently in Tihar Jail. This list includes those involved in the 1996 bomb blast in the Lajpat Nagar neighbourhood of New Delhi, in which 14 were killed. Sources said that soon after the Centre-Hurriyat dialogue began on January 22, the conglomerate, headed by chairman Maulvi Abbas Ansari, conveyed the list of prisoners to their interlocutors here. This list was handed over to the Home Ministry on February 2. Speaking to The Sunday Express from Srinagar, Ansari said the list had not been handed by him to the Centre but by 'some friends in the Hurriyat.' He said the Centre's rejection of the list would have no impact on the fledgling dialogue process. However, he added: 'Even if they have committed serious crimes, they should be tried in courts and in front of the people.' And that an open trial 'will strengthen the hands of peace and rebut those against the peace process.' 'Kashmiri awam ko pata chalna chahiye ki unka kya zurm hai...dialogue to ahista ahista chalega...magar awam ko pata hona chahiye ki unke liye kya risk liya jaa raha hai.' (Talks can proceed step by step but the Kashmiris need to know what crimes (these individuals) have committed. And what risks are being taken (to take the process forward).' Sources said that before the Home Ministry took a formal view, the Kashmir interlocutors told the Hurriyat Abbas Ansari group not to press for their release as all these 10 prisoners are allegedly involved in cases of murder, funding militancy, arms seizure and passing on secret security documents. It is understood that the Kashmir interlocutors informally told Hurriyat that the Centre is willing to look into the release of political detainees on the recommendation of the Mufti Sayeed government. In fact, the Centre has asked the Mufti government for such recommendations and has plans to release more Kashmiri political detainees in March-before the second round of Hurriyat dialogue with DPM L K Advani. The Centre has also expressed its willingness to talk to other secessionist groups-but not Hurriyat hawk and rebel leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani-if the Hurriyat can get them on board the peace process. Kashmir watchers feel that Hurriyat gave this list so that militant groups can also be brought on the dialogue table. The Hurriyat move came after the United Jehad Council (UJC) meeting, headed by Hizbul Mujahideen's Syed Salahuddin, in Muzaffarabad in the last week of January belittled the peace dialogue. It is learnt that the list of 10 was passed on to the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police for comments by the Home Ministry. The IB strongly voted against the release as three persons have been chargesheeted and another has been convicted for offences under the IPC. Delhi Police, on its part, stuck to the IB line saying these prisoners were involved in serious crimes and not political activism. On the basis of the inputs from the IB and the Delhi Police, the Home Ministry decided to say no. However, those involved in the Kashmiri peace process believe that this rejection will not affect the dialogue as the Centre is all for seriously considering any other demand the Abbas Ansari group makes, including increase people-to-people contact across the Line Of Control .


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