India-PoK Bus Is A Coffin: Militants
30 March 2005
The Asian Age
Srinagar: On Wednesday, when India and Pakistan were exchanging lists of travellers from each side for the inaugural Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, the separatist militants issued an indirect threat, saying the passengers would only be getting into a 'coffin'. What is surprising, and embarrassing, to the two sides is that a joint statement issued by four obscure militant outfits on Wednesday, against what the two countries describe as the biggest confidence- building measure, also carries the list of the 40 passengers, with their addresses and application form numbers cleared for travel on the inaugural bus from Srinagar, much before it could be released officially. 'Forget how the list was leaked to them, we should be concerned about the lives of the people who are travelling across by this bus,' said a senior police official. Government sources here said the travellers are being asked to be careful till they board the bus. At least 10 politicians representing various mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to travel with the first bus. Prominent among them are the deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Pandit Mangat Ram Sharma, ruling People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, PCC chief Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed, CPI(M) state general secretary Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, former minister and Congress leader from Jammu Sardar Rangil Singh, PDP MLA and the chief minister's brother-in-law Sartaj Madani, National Panthers' Party chief Prof. Bhim Singh and NC Legislature Party leader Abdur Rahim Rather. A joint statement by Al-Nasireen, Save Kashmir Movement, Al-Aarifeen and Farzandan-e-Millat was faxed to journalists here. It said they were opposed to the bus as it would weaken the 'jihad' being fought in Kashmir. Describing the bus as a 'coffin', the outfits asked the people of Kashmir to avoid travelling on it. It said the list of passengers had been sent along with the statement to the newspapers so that the people on the list would avoid boarding the bus. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will flag off the inaugural bus from here on April 7. The separatist outfits have called for a protest shutdown in Kashmir on that day. 'The people of Kashmir have been fighting a jihad to liberate their land and seek salvation, but the bus is part of a deep-rooted conspiracy to harm their just struggle and intended to strengthen the Indian yoke,' the statement said. Officials claimed that at least two of the obscure outfits, Al-Nasireen and the Save Kashmir Movement, are fronts of known militant groups, including the Lashkar- e-Tayyaba. But these groups have in the past strongly denied such links. The joint statement said an extraordinary meeting of the 'supreme commanders' of these outfits in Srinagar discussed the bus service and its implications and decided that it would in no way be in the interests of the ongoing 'jihad' in Kashmir. 'It is a conspiracy to strengthen the Indian occupation, and also to use it as a lethal and dangerous weapon to deracinate it in Jammu and Kashmir,' it read. The meeting also criticised the moderate Kashmiri separatist leadership, including the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference, for supporting the bus service. 'Their viewpoint is clearly pro-Indian and anti-resistance movement,' it said. But the statement hailed the 'unambiguous and bold' stance of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads the hardline faction of the amalgam, that the bus would be detrimental to the 'freedom cause'. It appreciated the role of Pakistan vis-à-vis the Kashmiri 'freedom struggle', saying it had been making huge sacrifices alongside the people of the state and extending all possible help. 'But the meeting expressed deep sorrow over Pakistan's bus diplomacy and accused the Musharraf government of facilitating Indian desires on Jammu and Kashmir at the behest of the colonial powers; hence challenging the religious and national pride of the Muslims of Pakistan,' the statement read. The outfits are even critical of the Muttahida (United) Jihad Council, an alliance of various militant groups, saying it did not react strongly to the bus service. Official sources confirmed that the authorities in Muzaffarabad have cleared the list of 40 people from Jammu and Kashmir who would be travelling on the inaugural bus and the one that would follow it. They include nine women. Among the passengers booked for the first bus are three Srinagar-based journalists who had applied in their individual capacities. The rest of the passengers are mainly members of divided families living in Srinagar, Baramulla, Rajouri, Jammu and Poonch districts. The Jammu and Kashmir politicians have completed all travel permit formalities, officials said, adding that their names were likely to be cleared by the authorities of the host country as the matter was discussed at the diplomatic level with Islamabad. 'We'll go there with a message of peace and expect that they will reciprocate,' Mr Mangat Ram Sharma said. The idea of sending mainstream politicians across was reportedly floated by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and, according to official sources, endorsed by the Centre on the premise that it would benefit India politically on Kashmir. Until now, Islamabad has only recognised the separatist leadership as the 'true representatives of the people of Kashmir'. Informed sources said that some of the moderate separatists leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar, have been promised that they will be allowed to travel to Muzaffarabad separately. These separatist leaders maintain that they want to hold discussions with the militant leadership besides the ordinary people and government and Opposition functionaries on the other side of the de facto border. On Wednesday, another obscure militant group, Al-Mansorin, said it was irrational, asserting, 'If you really want to talk to the mujahideen, they are very much here in Jammu and Kashmir.'