Polls Over, J-K Moves Quickly To Free Top Separatists

26 December 2008
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Two days after the conclusion of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, the state administration has decided to release four top separatist leaders who had been arrested to stop the poll boycott campaign. The move, it hopes, will make it clear that the arrests were made only for the smooth conduct of elections and had no political motive. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik, Dukhtaran-e-Millat’s Asiya Andrabi, Hurriyat hawk Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai and Ghulam Nabi Sumji are among the more than dozen separatist leaders who will be released. However, no decision has been taken yet on senior leaders like Shabir Shah, Nayeem Khan and Masrat-ul-Islam as well as dozens of others picked up during the massive separatist protests after the Amarnath land row. Incidentally, the move by the administration led by Governor N N Vohra takes away what could have been a major confidence building measure for a new elected government. In fact, both the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party had promised to release the separatists in case they were voted to power. “The arrests were done exclusively to ensure the smooth conduct of polls, and there were no political reasons. And there was a need to make that point clear, especially after the election process had been concluded successfully,” a senor official told The Indian Express. Buoyed by the enthusiastic participation in the polls, the Vohra administration also wants to “test the ground well ahead of the oath ceremony of the new government”. Already, both the hardline and moderate camps of the Hurriyat have admitted that the poll turnout showed their “political disconnect” with the people and called for an “introspection”. An internal debate is on about their “Srinagar-centric” approach, as well as their strategy of calling for strikes, which has crippled Kashmir’s economy.