Rebel groups to boycott J&K polls
6 December 2001
The Times of India
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
SRINAGAR: Separatist leaders in Kashmir on Thursday said they would boycott state polls announced by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for September 2002.''Any polls held under the purview of the Indian constitution in Kashmir will be boycotted by us,'' influential hardline separatist Syed Ali Geelani said. ''Even if such polls are held under UN or international supervision we will boycott the same,'' he added.Geelani is one of the seven executive members of Kashmir''s main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference.Abdullah had said on Wednesday that polls would be held in September next year, following the expiry of his state administration''s six-year term.The Greater Kashmir daily newspaper quoted Abdullah as saying that he would ask New Delhi to invite international observers for the elections. ''But before that measures should be taken to silence Pakistani guns,'' Abdullah said.India accuses Pakistan of arming and funding the 12- year-old armed Muslim insurgency in Kashmir, which has claimed at least 35,000 lives. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it is only rendering moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris ''just struggle'' for self-determination.The two nuclear neighbours have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.Geelani, whose Jamaat-e-Islami party favours Kashmir''s accession to Pakistan, said that polls were no solution to the Kashmir problem and insisted on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions envisaging a referendum on the Himalayan region''s future.Shabir Shah, another senior separatist leader, said that his Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) would also boycott next year''s polls. ''If the polls are held to elect the leaders who would represent Kashmiris in talks with India and Pakistan over Kashmir,'' he said, ''I will take part in it.''Shah, who has spent 20 years in different Indian jails, favours Kashmir''s independence from both India and Pakistan.The last state assembly election in September 1996 was won by Abdullah''s National Conference (NC) party amid allegations of vote-rigging and a total boycott by separatist political groups.