February 2000 News

J&K bodies set to petition Clinton

8 February 2000
Asian Age
By Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: With the confirmation of President Bill Clinton’s South Asia trip, various political groups in Jammu and Kashmir are preparing to project their respective viewpoints before Mr Clinton who, they think, can influence the relationship between India and Pakistan. The Kashmiri groups have suddenly become active on the eve of President Clinton’s visit. The scene is likely to shift to New Delhi soon because there is no indication there that Mr Clinton would accept secessionist Hurriyat Conference's invitation to visit Srinagar.

In fact, the acting chairman of the amalgam of 13 groups seeking right to self-determination, Mirwaiz Maulvi Omar Farooq, has already joined his comrade Abdul Gani Lone in New Delhi to persuade the American embassy officials to allow them to meet President Clinton. The Mirwaiz said here last week that he invite Mr Clinton to pay a visit to Kashmir to know the ground realities which, he insisted, were contrary to what was being projected by India before the international community.

However, Mr Shabir Ahmed Shah, another prominent secessionist, disagreed with the proposed move saying that Kashmir is a disputed territory and, therefore, extending such an invitation to an international dignitary particularly the US President is fraught with far-reaching implication on the nature of the problem itself. He favoured strongly pleading the "just cause" of the Kashmiri people before Mr Clinton.

Mr Shah plans to visit New Delhi during Mr Clinton’s stay there to try to see him and to ensure he is invited to meet the US President, he has sought help of former US ambassador to India Frank Wisner. Various secessionist groups or their supporting organisations are also collecting data to prepare memoranda to be presented to Mr Clinton on the human rights situation in the state. "If he does not visit Kashmir for one or the other reason he must have a feel of the situation prevailing here," said a Hurriyat Conference leader, adding: "It is with this objective that all of us need to work together." The Hurriyat Conference, which had been agitating what is calls unjustified detention of its leadership, now seems quite happy that this is one of the issues that could be brought up before Mr Clinton as an evidence of "Indian repression."

Says a party leader: "Whether President Clinton visits Pakistan or not, whether he has the time or sees it an obligation to meet the victim of Indian repression, the circumstances in which he is visiting the region go in our favour."

Pro-India Kashmiri groups seem to be equally seized with the importance of President Clinton’s visit. Dr Ajay Chrungoo, leader of Panun Kashmir, said that he and like-minded activists, including Dr Agnishekar, Dr K.L. Chowdhary and Pandit Moti Lal Koul would meet Mr Clinton to apprise him of the "real situation" in the state and the plight of more than 350, 000 Kashmiri pandits.


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