May 2002 News

Death in Kashmir Lone’s moderation made him vulnerable

24 May 2002
The Statesman

New Delhi: The murder in Srinagar of Abdul Ghani Lone, a moderate voice in the Hurriyat, is a calculated blow struck at prospects for peace — it follows closely a rift between moderates and hardliners in the Hurriyat. Subsequent to 11 September there has been a rethinking of the politics of jehad and of ISI-dictated militancy among Kashmiri separatist leaders. The rift came out in the open at a conclave in Dubai attended by Lone and fellow moderate Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, ISI chief Ehsan-ul Haq and Sardar Abdul Qayyum, chairman of PoK’s governing committee, after which Mirwaiz made a statement against jehad in Srinagar, and Lone was keen to contest Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls due in September. Having the Hurriyat contest polls does not suit the interests of those who seek to win Kashmir by force of arms, and the murder of Lone, on the eve of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to the troubled state, was intended to keep Kashmir on the boil and send a chilling message to those who choose to disagree with the paymasters and puppeteers of Kashmir’s jehad. Those who pumped bullets into the frail leader were dressed in police uniform, which suggests the standard tactic of misleading opinion in the Valley by suggesting that the murder was carried out by Indian security forces. But Lone’s family knows better; his son Sajjad has blamed Hurriyat’s chief hardliners Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Abdul Ghani Butt, even manhandling Geelani when the latter turned up for Lone’s funeral. What is disconcerting, however, is that no special security precautions were taken for Lone even though Indian intelligence must have known that he was placing himself in a vulnerable position by opposing the presence of foreign militants in the Valley. Despite persistent threats to his life the state government cut down his security detail from 18 to 6, which suggests that the Pakistani controllers of Kashmir’s insurgency are not the only ones interested in scuttling potential Hurriyat participation in assembly polls — the National Conference may have a vested interest there as well. It remains to be seen how other Hurriyat moderates react to Lone’s murder – whether it frightens them into acquiescence with the ISI’s diktat, or whether it steels their resolve to fight jehadi solutions to Kashmir’s problems. If Vajpayee wants to seize the initiative in Kashmir now he must be able to assure everyone interested in participating in a political process in the state about two things — one, that there will be a free and fair poll; and two, that important players will be provided adequate security, regardless of whether they are in good standing with the present state government. That would go a long way towards ensuring that Lone’s martyrdom has not been in vain.


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