Largescale protest in Valley over Hizb commander's killing
14 June 2001
The Indian Express
Lurow (Tral): It was the funeral of a slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander. After heavyweight Geelani and other separatist leaders finished talking it was the turn of a gun-wielding Hizbul militant to stoke passions. His voice cracked with emotion, as he exhorted people to shout slogans in favour of "martyr" Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Saleem Khan. For the first time in several years militants exhibited their presence in the valley and were part of sloganeering on Wednesday evening. However, at the end of the funeral ceremony, there were few who followed the visiting separatist leaders, including rightwing Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who minutes ago was a hero of around 6000-strong crowd shouting slogan in his favour. The bearded militant, who took over from Geelani, was taken on shoulders when he took off the mask covering his face, but refused to disclose his identity. "I am fighting for Islam and liberation of Kashmir. I do not know anything more," he said. The killing of Saleem Khan is said to be a major setback for Hizbul in the area, where he had been active for 10 years. Delay in handing over of the body, in fact, evoked largescale protest in the area. Shops and business establishments had been closed in Tral tehsil for four days. The houses of two counter- insurgents, Mushtaq Chadur and Showkat, believed to have killed Khan, were the first target of the 2000-strong mob. "Chadur is responsible for the killing of Saleem Khan. We attacked his house when Khan's body was not handed over to us till Monday morning," said a Lurow Jagir youth. Residents now fear reprisal from counter-insurgents and security forces. "They have compiled a list of relatives and neighbours of Saleem Khan to settle scores," a villager alleges. Geelani, while asking people to resume their normal work from Thursday, however instigated the gathering to stage demonstrations if any of the villager was arrested. "You must take to streets and oppose the repression tooth and nail," Geelani said while addressing the gathering. As emotions were running high, other separatist leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Shaheen of Muslim Conference and Hakeem Abdul Rashid of the Muslim League, also spoke against any such move which they said belittled the sacrifices of people. Shaheen termed the Hurriyat Conference a creation of militant struggle and said the separatist conglomerate survived only because of armed struggle. "Many alliances came up before the armed struggle in 1990, but they could not survive for long. Hurriyat is offshoot of militancy. There can be no compromise on armed struggle and Jehad. Islam is the source of inspiration of this movement," he said. Without naming any separatist leader, Hakeem asked the "moderate" leaders that if they are tired they should stay at home. "I resigned from Shabir Shah's Democratic Freedom Party since his recent overtures were not reflecting the sentiments of people. We should reject all those leaders who have sold their conscience," he said. It seems Tral area is completely under the influence of militants. A village elder, however said: "You should not call it influence of militants. We are for the freedom movement and those who fight for this movement will be supported". Hardliner separatist leaders are only political voice in this area. Tral Assembly segment has no representation in Legislative Assembly since last two years. Its MLA Ali Mohammad Naik resigned from Legislative Assembly in 1999 after he was elected Member Parliament (MP).