Omar holds 8,000-strong rally in Geelani village

13 April 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Ali Fayyaz

Sopore: Attempting to take advantage of depleting militancy and the fast changing political scenario in Kashmir valley, National Conference (NC) president Omar Abdullah today organised a thick rally of his followers in Sopore area which has remained out-of-bounds for his mainstream political party due to high concentration of militants in the last 19 years. More significantly, venue of the rally was yards away from residences of the senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Congress party's MLA, Haji Abdur Rasheed, in Dangarpora village. NC's rally in Dooru-Dangarpora, in which nearly 8,000 people participated, came a day after the PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti, addressed a workers convention at Dak Bungalow in Sopore and in days of Geelani launching his anti-election campaign from a mosque in the apple-town. Even as MLA Haji Rasheed has been extensively touring his constituency since beginning of March, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's scheduled programme of addressing a rally in Dangarpora had been cancelled due to 'security reasons' over a year ago. Last fortnight, however, Azad made it to Sopore, mainly to inaugurate OPD Block of the new Sub District Hospital. In his speech to a gathering at Dak Bungalow, he said that he was visiting Sopore inspite of 'aar paar ki sazishein' aimed at preventing him from holding a rally in the separatist fortress. While Azad was escorted by his party's top leadership in Sopore-Ghulam Rasool Kar, Abdul Gani Vakil and Haji Abdur Rasheed-Omar was accompanied today by firebrand colleagues like Ali Mohammad Sagar and Dr Mehboob Baig besides Irfan Shah and local organiser Haji Mohammad Ashraf who has emerged as a strong contender for the party's ticket in the forthcoming Assembly elections against Ghulam Nabi Khan. Over a year ago, Khan had become president of the traders' federation, while defeating a candidate who enjoyed support of a strong pro-Pakistan constituency. He was heard vowing today that he would soon organise a 20,000-strong rally in Sopore and get NC's mandate at any cost. In the adjoining constituency of Rafiabad, two of the ruling coalition Ministers-Mohammad Dilawar Mir of PDP and Abdul Gani Vakil of Congress-have generated unprecedented political heat while holding rallies, separately, day in and day out. In the last one month, both have spent more time in Sopore-Rafiabad belt than in the winter capital of Jammu. Last week, Vakil had organised a 4,000-strong rally in Reban, close to his residential village of Nawpora Kalan, which was today venue of the PDP rebel Javed Dar's rally. Though still in PDP, Dar has been holding his rallies independently and targeting his party colleague, Dilawar Mir, more than his rivals in NC and Congress. At NC's rally, between Geelani's and Haji Rasheed's residences, Ali Mohammad Sagar today introduced Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's Plebiscite Front days popular slogan 'jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha, who Kashmir hamara hai'. Remarkably, however, Sagar steered clear of the nascent competition between Omar and Mehbooba, who have both been trying to encroach upon the Hurriyat domain of Azadi, including appeasement of militants and Pakistan. '20 years of gun culture have given us nothing but destruction, ignominy and humiliation of our mothers and sisters. That's exactly what Dr Sahab (Farooq Abdullah) had apprehended while addressing a rally at Hazratbal in 1989', Sagar told an enthusiastic audience. It was perhaps for the first time in the last 20 years that the youth accounted for more than 70 percent of the participation in a mainstream political rally in Kashmir. Thousands of the participants in early 20s were seen wearing NC's red-colour head-bands-a symbol of 'infidelity' which would attract a bullet in the head on sight until yesterday. Much more than anything, Omar targeted the coalition Government's policies regarding the youth and employment. He asserted that Mufti's and Azad's Governments had cracked joke after joke with the State's unemployed youth for the last five years and now begun preparations for 'backdoor appointment' of 70,000 people through hand-picked officials. 'Had this Government been honest and sincere in it, this process of recruitment would have been assigned to SSRB and PSC. There's going to be no transparency or accountability in the whole exercise', Omar alleged and dismissed the new policy of recruitment as a 'pre-election bungling'. He said that, if voted to power, NC would formulate and implement a youth-friendly employment package. With reference to safe passage of the Kashmiri youth in PoK, Omar said that PDP was shedding 'crocodile tears' as it was this party which had failed Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami's resolution in Legislative Assembly in April 2006. He said that no Government would be in a position to investigate the truth behind the reported surfacing of 1,000 unnamed graves in Uri until a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by people acceptable to India and Pakistan, was constituted as he had been stressing since last year. He said that support from Pakistan in this regard was a must. Omar also assailed Chief Minister Azad for his recent speech in Ganderbal and said 'Most of the Kashmiris are honest and God fearing. Mr Azad needs to purge the corrupt in his Council of Ministers rather than abuse the Kashmiris. How can he abuse the Kashmiris for the corruption which is rampant in his Cabinet and Government?' Omar asked.