July 2002 News

Come clean or clear out: Jehadis tell Hurriyat

2 July 2002
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Demanding a clear-cut policy on the coming Assembly elections, the United Jehad Council (UJC), an amalgam of Kashmiri militant outfits, has asked the Hurriyat Conference to either initiate a poll boycott campaign or step down. The UJC has also warned that those who participate in the electoral process will be ‘‘dealt with severely’’. In a hard-hitting telephonic statement from Muzzaffarabad in PoK, a spokesman of the UJC, today said all the militant groups have sought the leadership of the separatist conglomerate to announce ‘‘a concrete, clear and unambiguous policy and immediately launch an anti- election campaign and thus represent the true sentiments of Kashmiri people.’’ And if, he added, the Hurriyat leadership showed any hesitation or buckled under pressure and came out with an ambiguous policy, the people would take their decisions themselves. The spokesman, who came out with the statement following a UJC meeting, said the militant leadership maintained that the aim of the 50-year struggle was complete secession from India, not a movement for power or autonomy. ‘‘And for this goal, 90,000 Kashmiris have sacrificed their lives...Anybody who tries to set aside these sacrifices and joins the poll fray will be considered a traitor and dealt with severely,’’ he warned. The UJC has also warned a high-level delegation of Muslim Majlis-e-Mashaqarat, led by noted Muslim leader Shahabudin, against trying to persuade Kashmiris to participate in the elections. While poll boycott has always been UJC’s policy, what is significant is the timing of the statement. The Hurriyat’s initiative for a poll boycott campaign took a beating after two of its main anti-election leaders, JKLF supremo Yasin Malik and Jamat-e- Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were arrested. Hurriyat chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, former chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and even Moulana Abbas Ansari have maintained a noncommittal stand on the issue. In fact, Bhat had even indicated that the Hurriyat was not interested in a boycott campaign. The arrest of Geelani, who had already initiated a campaign to boycott the polls, was seen as a big blow to the separatist lobby which organises public rallies against poll participation and asks people to keep away from mainstream political activity. Before his arrest under POTA, the UJC had dubbed Geelani as the ‘‘sole supreme leader’’ of Kashmir’s movement. The UJC’s statement comes just days after Jamat-e-Islami chief G.M. Bhat, considered to be a moderate, pledged that his party would not launch any poll boycott campaign. Although Bhat later clarified and said that his party, as a constituent of the Hurriyat, would abide by the decision taken by the separatist conglomerate, his statement indicated that the Hurriyat leadership would not go for boycott of polls. The UJC warning is also aimed at a new separatist lobby, the Third Front, which is fast coming up. This group, comprising former militant commanders and separatist leaders, are in fact pro-election.


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