The Assassination of Hizbul Leader Majid Dar

Md. Sadiq
24 March 2003

Abdul Majid Dar, another sane voice in Jammu and Kashmir who realised the futility of the gun and talked of restoring peace to the terrorists` violence weary Kashmiris, has been silenced. Abdul Majid Dar`s assassination is the second in the row after the assassination of A.G. Lone, senior Hurriyat leader who talked of solving the long pending Kashmir imbroglio by giving a call to the Kashmiris to participate in the recently held assembly elections.

Abdul Majid Dar, another sane voice in Jammu and Kashmir who realised the futility of the gun and talked of restoring peace to the terrorists` violence weary Kashmiris, has been silenced. Abdul Majid Dar`s assassination is the second in the row after the assassination of A.G. Lone, senior Hurriyat leader who talked of solving the long pending Kashmir imbroglio by giving a call to the Kashmiris to participate in the recently held assembly elections.

Abdul Majid Dar, top separatist leader and former Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Commander, was shot dead by unknown gun men at Sopore on 23 March 2003. Two gun wielding youth barged into Dar`s ancestral house at Noor Bagh in the heart of the township and fired indiscriminately. While Dar died on the spot, his mother and sister were critically injured.

Dar`s death has delivered a blow to the peace initiative in Kashmir. The killing comes at a time when Dar was planning to return to PoK to take control of Hizbul moderates which could have changed the complexion of militancy in the Valley.  It was Dar who earlier took the initiative by declaring a unilateral cease-fire and initiating talks with the Centre. His peace initiative was met positively by the Centre, which nominated the then Home Secretary Padmanabhan to hold talks with Dar and his commanders. However, the talks could not go beyond the first round.

Dar suffered a major blow when the Special Operation Group killed his deputy, Masood, who had led the Hizb delegation for talks with the Home Secretary. Farooq Mircha, another Dar aid, disappeared mysteriously some months later. The PoK based HM Chief Syed Salahuddin later removed Dar and his confidants from top positions and finally expelled him for `defying party discipline`. Dar and his men, however, refused to accept the expulsion and claimed to be part of the HM.

Within hours of Dar`s assassination, clashes broke out at the HM camps in PoK between the slain leader`s followers and members of the faction led by Salahuddin. There were clashes at the camps in Kotli, Mirpur, Jangal-Mangal, Haripur, and Gadhi-Dupatta. Dar was slated to take charge of these ISI run stations where tensions between the two factions had been simmering. Highly placed sources were sure of Salahuddin`s hands in the murder of the Kashmir-born leader. Salahuddin`s men are also believed to be behind the recent killing of a Kashmiri journalist Pervez Sultan who had written a story about the impending break-up of the HM.

A series of clashes between the two factions has been noticed since mid-2002. The biggest of them occurred at the Haripur camp (PoK) in November 2002 in two separate camps in PoK. Even those who were staying in other camps were found switching loyalty to the Kashmiriyat cause espoused by Dar. Earlier, Salahuddin had sabotaged a ceasefire that Dar unilaterally declared in July 2000. At the behest of the ISI, he insisted on the inclusion of Pakistan on the negotiating table.

Salahuddin was feeling alienated by Dar`s rising popularity and the Indian security force`s tight vigil on the Line of Control because of which he was finding it difficult to send his men into Indian territory. Dar's murder was, therefore, planned with a view to end a turf war that was slipping out of the ISI`s control.