Hizbul says won’t use gun to enforce election boycott
29 January 2008
The Indian Express
SRINAGAR: In a significant change in his strategy, Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin has said militants will not use gun to enforce election boycott in Kashmir. The statement — the first of its nature — has come at a time when the state is in an election mode with Assembly polls likely to held sometime in summer. “We are against elections in Kashmir and urge people to boycott them. However, we will not enforce the boycott on gunpoint. If anybody comes out to vote, we cannot stop him,” Salahuddin, who is also Chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC), Kashmir’s largest militant conglomerate, said in a statement. He called upon the separatist politicians to come forward and launch a boycott campaign. “Elections in Kashmir cannot solve our problem. And they cannot be fair because of heavy troop presence here.” Salahuddin disowned militant outfits like Save Kashmir Movement, Farzandan-i-Millat. Al-Istiklal, Al Nasreen and Al-Haq Mujahideen who have been operating in Valley for several years and have claimed responsibilities for many militancy related incidents. “These outfits are not constituents of UJC,” he said. Earlier, Hizb supremo had stated his admiration for the Ireland model as the first step towards Kashmir solution. However, today he rejected the Irish agreement, saying there was little similarity between the political situation in Northern Ireland and that of Kashmir. Hizb’s withdrawal of threat of violence from the Assembly elections, together with moderate Hurriyat’s decision not to launch a boycott campaign, has created the most favourable conditions for polls in the past two decades. Militants had not interfered with the bypolls in three constituencies in 2006 that witnessed a massive participation by the people. Besides, there was little effort to disrupt the landmark 2002 elections which saw National Conference lose its 27 year-long grip on power. Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani and militant outfits outside the UJC fold have, however, made no commitment of not interfering in the poll process. Geelani has announced his decision to hold rallies across the Valley against people’s participation in the polls.