Fighting Elections Is Not Change In Ideology: Sajjad Lone

10 May 2009
Etalaat News Service

Handwara: Having plunged headlong into an electoral campaign as the first separatist in Kashmir to contest the polls since a revolt broke out in Kashmir in 1989, People's Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone says he has changed his strategy but not his ideology. 'I have decided to contest polls with a promise to use this platform to represent the voice of the Kashmiri people and to take the strength and merits of our aspirations to the central stage of India where it cannot be ignored or censored out,' Lone said on phone from Srinagar. He is contesting the elections in Baramulla, the Lok Sabha constituency in north Kashmir that goes to the polls May 13. 'I am in my humble capacity trying to reorient our struggle and bring it in tune with the existing realities as I perceive them,' said Lone, 42, who has studied in Britain and has a degree in psychology. 'I will continue to challenge Indian rule in Kashmir. I won't be an Indian poster boy but the poster boy of Kashmiri separatism.' Lone walked out of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, after his father, senior separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, was assassinated in 2002. He is married to Asma Khan, daughter of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder Amanuallah Khan, who is based in Pakistan. Lone's decision to contest the polls has given separatist leaders, especially chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, an opportunity to castigate him by branding him a traitor to the Kashmir cause. But this does not bother Lone unduly. He says, 'I am not going to answer Mirwaiz's charge (of calling him a traitor). A thousand Mirwaizs put together can't tell me what to do. And, more importantly, since when has Mirwaiz taken charge of Kashmir's interests?' Lone points out that there was a need to change strategy after last year's state elections, which despite a boycott call saw a turnout of more than 60 percent. 'I am not staking any major claim or seeking power for power's sake. I am humbly seeking a mandate from the people and a chance to go to New Delhi and convey a clear message.' And that message, he emphasises, is that 'no heavy-handedness, censorship or misinformation campaign can silence the message or messenger'. Had he been interested in power he would have contested the assembly elections in 2008, says Lone. 'I want a bigger platform in order to be able to plead the cause of my nation. I already have a regional document ready on Kashmir and will come out with a viable roadmap for this region once elected.' To his credit Lone is the only leader to have come out with a comprehensive document, 'Achievable Nationhood', that discusses various dynamics of the Kashmir issue.