Change In Strategy: Lone

11 April 2009
The Hindu

Srinagar: People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone on Saturday declared that he was entering the poll fray, thus becoming the first “separatist” in Kashmir to take part in the electoral process within the ambit of the Indian Constitution. After dithering over the issue for several months, following people’s rejection of the call for a boycott of last year’s Assembly elections, he announced his decision at a news conference here. He said he would represent the aspirations of people in Parliament. But he would be taking the oath under the Indian Constitution with a heavy heart. He said some people might not like it. “But I want a bigger platform to represent the Kashmiri people.” He said he arrived at the decision after consulting his party colleagues. The former Forest Minister, Mohiuddin Sofi, was by his side. Mr. Lone will contest from Baramulla-Kupwara where his father Abdul Gani Lone had considerable influence. He founded the People’s Conference in the late 1970s, and joined the separatist movement in the early 1990s. Mr. Lone, who vociferously called for a boycott of the Assembly elections in December last, said he changed his strategy but not his “ideology.” “It is a new method of the same ideology,” he said and sought time to prove himself. “Give me a chance. Pray for my success,” he told reporters who sought a clarification on his departure from secessionist politics. He said it was time to undo what was underlined in the strategy adopted in 1990. “Dynamic reformation is needed in strategy,” he said. “In politics, no option is off the table.” “I will continue to challenge the Indian rule in Kashmir. I won’t be an Indian poster boy but the poster boy of Kashmiri separatism.” Mr. Lone said his participation in the Lok Sabha polls should not be seen as a blow to separatism or the win of Indian democracy. “I’m too little to deliver a blow to separatism. Everyone in Kashmir is a separatist. Indian democracy will win only when the Kashmir dispute is resolved as per the aspirations of the people.”