January 2007 News

Mirwaiz remarks are debated in Kashmir

28 January 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

Srinagar: Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's remarks in Pakistan deploring the years of violence and shutdowns in Jammu and Kashmir has been termed as 'premature' and 'doublespeak' by many although the state government has welcomed it.Mirwaiz Umer and other members of the Hurriyat faction Saturday left Islamabad for New Delhi at the end of a 10-day visit to Pakistan.Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his coalition allies in the People's Democratic Party have publicly welcomed the stand taken by the moderate Hurriyat leader. The Mirwaiz had told reporters in Islamabad that the violence in Kashmir had achieved nothing other than an increase in the number of graveyards in the state. However, some felt it was too 'premature'. 'Let us wait till the Mirwaiz comes back. He will clarify the doubts that are being stoked by his opponents,' said Javid Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Rajouri Kadal area of the city.Abdul Rashid, 32, a resident of uptown Srinagar city, was critical of the Mirwaiz's remarks. 'For 18 long years they told us to observe shutdowns, bandhs and civil curfews. Now the Mirwaiz is saying that shutdowns would achieve nothing. It is a doublespeak for which they will have to think of better answers.' Several locals are now questioning the moderate Hurriyat leaders for their comments on militancy.'Who eulogised militancy for 18 years? Who said that armed struggle was the only option available to Kashmiris since New Delhi understood no other language,' said Muhammad Muzaffar, a college teacher here.'It is an irony that so many thousands of youth had to die for what is now interpreted as a misadventure by these separatist leaders.' Shahid-ul-Islam, a spokesperson of the Mirawiz faction, explained: 'What we oppose is the politics of coercion. It is one thing to request to observe a shutdown and quite another to force them. The last strike called by the Gilani group against the visit of the Mirwaiz to Pakistan was literally enforced by muscle power. The city had opened normally on Jan 17 when the hardliners called for a general strike to protest the visit of the Hurriyat delegation to New Delhi and Pakistan for talks. Suddenly their supporters came on to the road and started pelting stones. They even threatened transporters and shopkeepers to fall in line. It is that type of coercive politics that we oppose.' Ali Mohammad Sagar, the senior leader of the opposition National Conference, however, believes that giving extraordinary weightage to the Mirwaiz's statement would be counterproductive. 'Let us not try to hype the statement made by the Mirwaiz. That would be politically unwise.'The problem for the moderate Hurriyat leaders is also that downtown Srinagar city, which is the political bastion of the Mirwaiz family, has always been the hot seat of anti-India sentiment in Kashmir.'Didn't the young Mirwaiz's father tell the (then) Indian prime minister Morarji Desai, who visited the Mirwaiz Manzil here in 1977, that they were extending him the rare honour of offering the same chair that had once been offered to Qaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah?' commented a local newspaper editor who did not want to be named.'I don't think it would be any easy for these so-called moderate leaders to let their latest stand sink smoothly into the hearts and minds of their supporters,' he said.Ironically, the hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, who broke away from the Hurriyat and formed his own group of the separatist conglomerate, appears to have increased his stock within the separatist camp in recent days.'Leaders who glorified the armed struggle cannot give it up without owning responsibility for the deaths of thousands of those who took to arms under their influence,' said an activist of Geelani's Hurriyat group.So far as the various militant groups are concerned, almost all of them have criticised the moderate Hurriyat leaders for seeking an end to militancy.'These leaders are absolutely frustrated and disgruntled. They are disillusioned and the best thing they can now do is to sit silent in their homes. 'They have abdicated the right to be called separatist leaders as they are now advocating a political status quo that suits New Delhi,' said a statement of the Save Kashmir Movement, a combine of armed groups that owned responsibility for the grenade attack a fortnight ago at the Nigeen residence of the Mirwaiz.


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