I Will Quit If That Brings Hawks Home: Abbas Ansari
21 May 2004
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Hurriyat Conference chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari today surprised Srinagar when he offered to step down and hand over charge to Mirwaiz Umer Farooq if this would help reunite the amalgam. Addressing a huge crowd on the death anniversary of Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, an emotional Ansari said if some people considered him an 'irritant' in the reunification of the Hurriyat - it was aimed at the breakaway faction led by hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani - he was ready to quit. 'Let them return and strengthen our hands,' he said. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on his part, suggested that the next round of Indo-Pak talks be held in Kashmir. 'You've held talks on Kashmir in Tashkent, Shimla, Agra, Lahore and Islamabad. Now hold your talks in Kashmir and solve this dispute forever.' Calling for Hurriyat unity, Abdul Gani Bhat gave the rebels led by Geelani a month's time to return to the fold: 'Now that Ansari Sahib has offered to step down, they should return. But if they don't, neither will they ever belong to us nor we to them.' Bhat said that under a 'single leadership' Hurriyat would be quite a force. 'If people don't get back, then the sole representative of the Kashmir movement is (our) Hurriyat. Our leaders will go door to door, village to village to make that point,' he said. In the next round of talks with Delhi, the Hurriyat, he said, would seek answers to its proposals. 'How do we address the element of uncertainty in our collective political life? What do we do to fill the gaps in our collective political consciousness?' 'How do you address anger against indignity? What is the answer to the alienation of Kashmiris? ' Bhat was all for flexibility in approach to find an amicable solution to the Kashmir problem. In New Delhi, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti - her party's a pre-poll Congress ally - met Prime Minister- designate Manmohan Singh at his Safdarjung Road residence and said that they wanted the peace process to be initiated at the earliest. 'We want resolution of the Kashmir problem, whether it's taking the dialogue process with Pakistan forward or initiation of talks with Hurriyat leaders,' she said. Mehbooba, who won the elections from Anantnag, said that the main purpose of her meeting Singh was to ensure that the new government takes up the Kashmir peace process at the earliest. 'We have also asked him to take up the issue of opening the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road on priority basis,' she said. The work on the road was already on but things had got delayed due to elections and the change in government. Opening of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road - to facilitate people-to-people contact - was one of the promises made by PDP in its election manifesto.