After Geelani, Mirwaiz Admits ‘we Got It Wrong’

25 December 2008
The Indian Express

Srinagar: A day after Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardline face of separatists in the Valley, admitted that the 62 per cent turnout in the J&K Assembly polls was something he had “never thought would happen,” the head of the moderate wing of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has echoed this and gone a step further. Calling for a need to “introspect and rethink,” the Mirwaiz said that separatists lacked “rapport with the ground”. “It is all about lack of rapport,” Mirwaiz told The Indian Express. “All our leaders are stationed in Srinagar. (Syed Ali) Geelani sahib is from Sopore, Shabir Shah sahib is from Islamabad (Anantnag)... Then we have Bilal (Gani Lone) sahib, Professor (Abdul Gani Bhat) sahib... It is also important that they work in their respective areas. It is something Hurriyat has to rethink and concentrate on. Leaders have to take responsibility of their respective regions.” Mirwaiz, who is also the head priest of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid (Grand Mosque), said it was important to understand the “genuine problems” of the rural Kashmir, understand the people and educate them but simultaneously blamed the Government for “denying them a level playing field”. “We have to acknowledge that the rural people have genuine problems like pani (water) and bijli (electricity) and Hurriyat is not in a position to address them,” he said. “But India is always projecting it as a substitute to solution (of Kashmir issue)”. Mirwaiz admitted to Hurriyat’s own shortcomings and said the amalgam was ready to look within. “We also need to introspect. We will sit together and rethink about our future strategy,” Mirwaiz said. “But that is possible only after our leaders are released and curbs on our movement lifted”. Mirwaiz, however, said the high voter turnout in the polls did not mean a “vote against Azadi”. “Even the people, who have voted, clearly distinguished between Azadi and electoral process,” he said. “It is not a vote against Azadi or for India. It is a vote for the (resolution of) people’s day to day problems,” said the Hurriyat leader. The Hurriyat chairman sees a limited role for the Kashmir Coordination Committee (KCC) - an amalgam of separatist organisations, traders and transporters formed to spearhead the poll boycott campaign. “It (Coordination Committee) is sort of a bigger alliance or a working relationship with other organisations,” Mirwaiz said. “It is there but the focus has to be on Hurriyat”. Mirwaiz asked people not to go for any strike on Friday. The Coordination Committee had been called a half-day strike and protests for the past eight consecutive Fridays that have been responded with curfew by the J-K Government. “People need a break,” he said.