Attack On Mirwaiz Scares Separatists
3 June 2004
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The grenade attack on Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and his uncle, whose condition is still very serious, has unnerved the Kashmir separatists who are now openly speaking of 'a determined effort to make us pull out of talks with the Centre.' The Mirwaiz, whose father was assassinated, is spending his days in hospital by his uncle's side and told The Asian Age that he has had no time to think about the proposed dialogue, or otherwise, with the new government. All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Maulvi Abbas Ansari said the attack was by those who did not want the talks to continue. He said it was extremely worrying, but the Centre should also realise that the dangers would increase unless the next round of talks took up substantive issues in a serious fashion. He said that two rounds of talks with the earlier government had broken the ice 'and the effort now should be to take these forward and not try and cover ground that we have already crossed.' Reports reaching the Centre suggest deep demoralisation and concern about the growing apprehension 'that the other side is bent on eliminating those who support the talks with the Centre,' according to official sources. Hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is taking advantage of this and is now moving ahead to float his own organisation. The sources said he had earlier been dissuaded from doing so by Pakistan, which had wanted the Kashmiri separatists to unite under one banner. This has not happened, and there is an effort on now to activate the hardliners by putting pressure on moderates to pull out of talks with New Delhi. Separatist leaders like Mr Yasin Malik and Mr Shabir Shah are still sitting on the fence, and refusing to participate in the Hurriyat-Delhi talks. The sources said that they have been in touch with Mr Geelani recently, who has now managed to rope in some Jamaat-e-Islami members into his plans for starting a new organisation. The previous government at the Centre did not invite these leaders for the talks, urging the Hurriyat to approach and accommodate them instead. Maulvi Ansari recently offered to step down from the chairmanship if other leaders wanted this to be a precondition for joining the APHC. He told this correspondent that there had been no response to his offer. Mr Malik and Mr Shah are also looking at the progress of the India-Pakistan dialogue later this month. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is reportedly of the view that the separatist leaders are not in a mood to talk. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq's uncle took five bullets in the neck while he was praying at a local mosque. This was intended to spread panic and make it clear to others participating in the talks that not just they but their relatives too were not safe, even inside a mosque. The Mirwaiz is shellshocked and for the moment not even thinking about the feasibility, or otherwise, of the dialogue. If the others fall in line, the Centre is prepared to hold the talks by the end of June or at the latest by early July. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to allow Mr N.N. Vohra to continue in the post of interlocutor for Kashmir was welcomed by Maulvi Abbas, who described it as a 'gesture of continuity.' Dr Singh has shown particular interest in the Kashmir talks, with the subject now being handled by him, as well as home minister Shivraj Patil, Mr Vohra, national security adviser J.N. Dixit and special adviser M.K. Narayanan. Several meetings have been held on this at different levels, with the government clearly committed to continuing the dialogue with the separatist leaders.