September 2002 News

Reconsider poll boycott call: KC to Hurriyat

4 September 2002
The Indian Express

New Delhi: The Kashmir Committee seeking to bring peace to region urged the All Party Hurriyat Conference to reconsider its boycott of state elections beginning this month, its convenor said on Wednesday. The Committee, headed by former law minister Ram Jethmalani, will meet leaders of the Hurriyat Conference in New Delhi on Saturday. ''The Hurriyat could ask people to exercise their franchise to get a more responsive government even if it doesn''t participate itself. The committee will request the Hurriyat not to boycott the polls during the meeting,'' Ashok Bhan told Reuters. The Hurriyat has urged people to stay away from the polls in Jammu and Kashmir state, saying the elections are not a substitute for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people in line with UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949. An earlier round of talks between the Kashmir Committee, which has been trying to bring the government and separatists together for discussions, and Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar last month did not make much headway. Centre is pressing moderate separatists to take part in the election which begins on September 16. New Delhi hopes the poll will boost the legitimacy of its rule in the region. Bhan said the government should hold talks with separatists in Kashmir and not link discussions with the polls. ''The government will have to talk to the separatists, if not today, then tomorrow. The government should not have a reticent attitude,'' Bhan said. New Delhi has said it would only talk to elected state representatives about greater autonomy. The Hurriyat says it is sceptical about the Kashmir Committee''s efforts to solve the decades-old dispute. ''I don''t expect miracles, but it is good people are talking. One cannot expect much from a non- governmental committee,'' Moulana Umar Farooq, a senior Hurriyat leader, told Reuters. Analysts also said the committee was going nowhere because senior government leaders including Deputy Prime Minister Advani had refused to meet separatist leaders. ''The government, including Advani, has not extended support to the Committee it needed. Jethmalani made an honest and sincere effort but his mission is doomed,'' political analyst Prem Shankar Jha said.


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