Sheikh Memory Draws Crowd5 December 2010
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: For months, the security forces have been on their toes around Sheikh Abdullah’s mausoleum on the Dal Lake’s banks, fearing attacks on it by stone-throwing, pro-independence mobs. They were again on their toes there today, but for a different reason. Thousands travelled to the venue to observe the 105th birth anniversary of the pro-India National Conference patriarch, and to listen to the speeches of his son Farooq and grandson Omar at the rally. “At least twice (in the past five months), we had to virtually beg protesters to leave the place without harming the mausoleum. If we had not protected the place round the clock, they could have done anything,” a police officer said. Places close to the venue, Hazratbal and Habak, have witnessed countless instances of stone-throwing. On Id three months ago, protesters torched several police posts at the famed Hazratbal shrine. But Omar Abdullah today chose his grandfather’s grave as the venue for his first public meeting in Srinagar. Most among the audience came from Omar’s home constituency of Ganderbal and from Bandipore district and far-off south Kashmir. Omar used the occasion to ask the separatists to join the dialogue process with Delhi. “If they can talk to (visiting) parliamentarians or to the Pakistani high commission in Delhi, why not (to) Delhi?” The chief minister also stressed the need for a political solution on Kashmir. “I am not a person who runs from reality when in power. I have said this in front of the Prime Minister and the UPA chairperson in Anantnag, that Kashmir needs a political solution. The money they give us is used for our daily needs but it is not the solution to the Kashmir issue,” he said. Father Farooq took the lead in hitting out at the separatists, particularly Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani. “I want to know from Geelani what kind of Kashmir he wants.... A Kashmir of graveyards?” he asked.