Yasin-Mirwaiz supporters clash in downtown
26 November 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's 'historic' ceremony of establishing an office in the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's traditional stronghold of Bohrikadal in downtown Srinagar was marred by a bitter clash between the supporters of the two pro-Azadi organisations today. While the supporters of Mirwaiz indulged in heavy stone pelting on the JKLF rally and new office, the densely populated locality turned tense amid charges and counter-charges even as half-a- dozen activists sustained injuries. Acrimony between the two separatist organisations sprang in the forenoon when the Mirwaiz followers began complaining in whispers that the JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik, had paid 'too much of obeisance' to the People's Conference (PC) founder-Chairman Abdul Gani Lone at the 'Martyrs Graveyard' of Iddgah. Some people were heard complaining that the JKLF group had 'ignored' the Awami Action Committee (AAC) Chairman Mirwaiz Farooq. Mirwaiz Farooq, gunned down at his home on May 21, 1990, and Abdul Gani Lone, shot dead at the Mirwaiz remembrance ceremony on May 21, 2002, are both buried at the 'Martyrs Graveyard'. While a pioneer of the armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, Yasin Malik, is continuously heading the separatist JKLF, late Mirwaiz Farooq's son, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has been heading the amalgam of several separatist organisations, known as Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz). In 1993-2003 period, JKLF was a key constituent of the Hurriyat and Malik was one of the seven Executive Committee members. Factionalism and one-upmanship has resulted in fragmentation after fragmentation in the Kashmiri separatist leadership, particularly in the last four years. Eyewitnesses said that the presence of about 500 residents of Handwara, believed to be members of the Sajjad Gani Lone faction of the PC, in the JKLF rally at Iddgah was not liked by the Mirwaiz supporters and it was because of this group that Yasin paid plenty of tributes to his one-time mentor Abdul Gani Lone. Later, in the afternoon, unidentified youth pelted a few stones towards the venue of the JKLF function which caused minor disruption. A little later, when Yasin Malik was in chair and a speaker was addressing the gathering after the inauguration, somebody got up and tried to hurl a chair while complaining that there were no photographs of late Mirwaiz Farooq at the ceremony. With this several youth began shouting pro-Pakistan slogans of 'Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan'. The JKLF activists silenced them with the pro-Azadi slogans of 'Ham Kya Chahte' Azadi'. In his speech, Yasin Malik paid his tributes to the people of downtown Srinagar and said that they had always remained in the forefront of the 'struggle for freedom' and given 'thousands of martyrs for Azadi'. He mentioned the names of many separatist leaders, including those of Lone and Mirwaiz, besides those of a number of prominent militants who either belonged to downtown or got killed in that area in the last 19 years. He said that the city interior between Hawal and Maisuma had remained the stronghold of Azadi and refused to succumb to many kinds of tribulations over the years. Yasin Malik avoided reference to the acrimonious atmosphere in the locality. He announced that JKLF's office would function round- the-clock and maintain close liaison with the common people as well as the released militants. He alleged that many of the released militants were being harassed and blackmailed by Police and many government agencies in everything ranging from a character verification to opening of an account in a bank. JKLF had raised portraits of a number of slain militants of various outfits at the venue and on the whole building in the old city hub of Bohrikadal- just a couple of furlongs from the historic Mirwaiz Manzil on Nallah Maar Road. The inauguration was handed over to two women, one reportedly a slain militant's mother and another reportedly a slain militant's daughter. Malik asked his followers to continue 'struggle for the freedom' and assured the audiences that sooner or later India and Pakistan would have to include the Kashmiris in the talks over Jammu and Kashmir dispute. As the function was nearing conclusion, scores of agitated youth amplified pro-Pakistan slogans and soon there was a heavy stone pelting. Sources said that in all 6 persons sustained injuries. In the chaos and confusion, men and women, believed to be supporters of Mirwaiz Umar, were heard calling Malik a 'surrendered militant' and 'Gandhi'. Office boards of the JKLF were also damaged in the melee'. A number of his supporters raised Malik over their shoulders and they took position at the office building. Malik was inside the building till late tonight. Reached over telephone, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik told the EXCELSIOR that the 'highly successful show of the JKLF' caused unrest among 'some groups' who, according to him, made 'unsuccessful attempts' to disrupt the proceedings. 'In utter frustration, they first raised Jeevay Jeevay slogans. Our people chased them away. Later, they resorted to stone pelting. This is nothing but an act of frustration', Malik said. He asserted that the JKLF office would continue in the locality and he would stand firmly there. He claimed that he paid equal respect to 'all martyrs, including Lone Sahib, Mirwaiz Farooq Sahib and others'. AAC sources alleged that the trouble started when a JKLF activist and Malik's close associate, Kukka Dar, abused late Mirwaiz Farooq at the ceremony. AAC spokesman, Shahid-ul-Islam, maintained that his organisation's leadership was monitoring the situation and he was not immediately in a position to make comment. He said that, according to reports available with him, some people of the locality had felt outraged over reports of hurling of abuses over the revered Muslim cleric and insisted to set the JKLF office on fire. 'But our volunteers intervened and forced them to observe restraint', he said and added that he would make an official comment on the 'ugly episode' by tomorrow. SP City (North) Bashir Ahmed Khan said that the situation was tense but under control. He said that Police maintained neutrality but ensured order. He said that a thick bandobust of Police was patrolling the area while the JKLF Chairman was present at his new office till late tonight.