May 2002 News

Hurriyat leader Lone assassinated in Srinagar

21 May 2002
The Hindu
Nissar Ahmad

Srinagar: The senior All-Party Hurriyat Conference leader, Abdul Gani Lone, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen here today, ahead of the visit of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to the Kashmir Valley. One of Mr. Lone''s gunmen, Mushtaq Ahmed, was also killed and another injured when the assailants opened fire during a rally to mark the 12th death anniversary of the former Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, father of the senior Hurriyat leader, Umar Farooq, at Idgah Ground in old Srinagar city. The 70-year-old Mr. Lone was rushed to the Soura Medical Institute, where he was declared ''brought dead''. He was shot in the heart, abdomen and thigh. His driver said that two masked men, wearing police uniforms, approached and shot him and two bodyguards. A television reporter, Deepak Chaurasia, said that another man threw a grenade into the crowd, but it did not explode. Official sources said that the attackers first hit Mr. Lone''s personal security guard and then showered bullets on him from a distance. The Hurriyat leader collapsed on the spot. At least seven persons were injured in the attack, which took place as the ceremony was about to end at 6.15 p.m. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. In New Delhi, Mr. Lone''s son, Sajjad Lone, said later that the ISI was behind the killing. The Hurriyat chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, who was present at the rally attended by a 5,000-strong crowd, said that he was escorting Mr. Lone after the ceremony but was separated from him because of the crowd. Shortly thereafter, he said, he heard the sound of gunshots and later realised that Mr. Lone and his gunmen had been shot. Eyewitnesses said that earlier during the day a group of youths arrived at the Idgah Ground raising pro- Pakistan slogans. After Mirwaiz Omar Farooq said that ''those raising pro-Pakistani slogans are government agents'', a clash erupted between them and the Mirwaiz''s supporters. However, normality was restored after the youths fled the area. It was only at the end of the meeting when the leaders and members of the public were leaving that two persons suddenly appeared and fired upon Lone, they said. Mr. Lone''s body was later brought to his Rawalpura residence, where hundreds of people had assembled. Mr. Lone is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. One of his sons is married to the daughter of the Pakistan-based Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader, Amanullah Khan. A founder executive committee member of the 23-party Hurriyat, Mr. Lone had been a critic of ''jehadi'' and foreign mercenaries and had indicated his desire for holding talks with the Centre for resolution of the Kashmir issue. He, along with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, recently held talks with the leaders of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in Sharjah, which created a controversy and led to some differences within the grouping. Incidentally, he returned to Kashmir only last weekend after a month-long tour of the United States. Lone, born in 1932, had served in the State Government before joining the separatist Hurriyat, where he was known as a moderate, open to dialogue, opposed to violence, and committed to the Kashmiris'' right to determine their own future. Dialogue with the Government ''does not mean heresy,'' he said. ''We should always be open to a dialogue.'' On Monday, Mr. Lone had given a lecture organised by Hurriyat, saying he was ''not averse to talking with India or anyone else, and Kashmir, like any mature political struggle, should be innovative in its strategy''. Earlier, on April 1, Mr. Lone was manhandled by a Shiv Sena leader during a press conference in Jammu. He had said in November last that an Islamic militant group had threatened him. He had repeatedly said that the State and Central Governments, and the Jammu-Kashmir police had tried to kill him, in bomb explosions and gunfire at his house. PTI, AP, UNI.


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