Separatists may not boycott LS polls in Kashmir

7 February 2009
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: It's unlikely that separatists in Jammu and Kashmir will boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. After an overwhelming 62 per cent voter turnout in the recent assembly polls, the view among separatists is that people should be allowed to choose whether they want to vote or not. Clearly, it's better than being left red-faced. Separatists have been boycotting Lok Sabha elections since 1989. Now, they are looking for a positive strategy to express their view rather than resort to boycotts and protests. Though All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq did not give a direct answer, he said the Lok Sabha elections were different from Assembly polls. But we have to discuss the matter, Farooq said. Boycott history Separatists have been boycotting Lok Sabha polls since 1989, when only 2% voted. The threat of violence was so high that J&K did not have the LS polls in 1991. In 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004, polls were boycotted. In 2008 Assembly polls, despite the boycott call, 62% of the 65 lakh voters cast their votes. Fazal-ul-Haq Qureshi, executive member of Hurriyat Conference and leader of Peoples Political Front, said: We should not issue a boycott call because that doesn't serve any purpose.Liberation Forum, said: We have to take a step after weighing the backdrop of the Assembly polls. It should be a well thought out decision based on ground realities. Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads the rival faction of Hurriyat Conference, is one of the few who maintains the polls must be boycotted.It is then for the people to decide which way they want to go, he said. JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and Abdul Ghani Bhat, former Hurriyat chairman, who led the boycott call, could not be reached for comments.