Hurriyat Chooses Silence To Tide Over Lone

12 April 2009
The Indian Express

Srinagar: The Hurriyat has met Sajad Lone’s decision to contest the elections - the first Kashmiri separatist leader to do so - with complete silence. Even as the other parties rethink their strategies in the wake of Lone’s announcement, both the moderates and the hardliners have refused to comment on the new crack in the separatist movement in the Valley. The few reactions which have come in have claimed “no surprise”, calling Lone a pro-India politician who masqueraded as a separatist. “Good that he has revealed his true face,” said the chief of the Dukhtaran-i-Millat, Asiya Andrabi. “And good that he has joined the camp to which he belonged.” Muslim League leader Mushtaq-ul-Islam also called the People’s Conference chairman a “camouflage mainstream leader”. He urged other “undercover separatists” to reveal themselves and abandon the separatist camp. Further stirring the political pot in J&K, the Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday nominated powerful Shia cleric and MLA Ifthikar Hussein Ansari from Srinagar. With Lone earlier announcing his candidature from Baramulla in north Kashmir, the National Conference, which was to announce its candidate list on Sunday after three-day marathon consultations with party leaders and district delegates, has put off the move. “We will announce the names very soon,” National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah said after a meeting at NC headquarters. According to sources, while the NC had shortlisted the names of sitting MP Rashid Shaheen and ex-MLA Sharif-ud-din Shariq for Baramulla and former chief secretary Sheikh Ghulam Rasool for Srinagar, the new high-profile candidates in the fray have upset its calculations. This is despite Srinagar being one of its pocketboroughs. While the Hurriyat might want its silence on Lone to be read as a snub, it is reflective of the churning within its factions since the heavy turnout in the recent Assembly polls. Hurriyat leaders also realise that in a political battlefield, their hold is limited. Except for Yaseen Malik, none of them has risen from the grassroots and they enjoy only small pocketboroughs of influence. As for Lone, he has never fit into the separatist firmament. Not part of either of the two Hurriyat factions, he always struggled to assume a central role and had frequent run-ins with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who doubted his separatist credentials. This crisis of credibility haunted him from day one of his political career, when grieving over the body of his father, the veteran separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, in 2002, in a fit of anger, he accused the ISI of being behind the assassination. Later, he dragged in Geelani too, accusing him of running a vitriolic campaign against his father’s opposition to the influx of foreign jihadis into J&K. He even identified the alleged militants responsible for killing his father.