Jammu and Kashmir: Important Events & Developments During 2006

Mohd. Sadiq
31 December 2006

Jammu and Kashmir inched closer to normalcy and peace during 2006 with the Government of India undertaking several important steps to bolster the ongoing peace process with Pakistan and separatist outfits. Militant outfits, however, continued to resort to violence in order to undermine the popular desire for peace. This summary provides a chronology of some of the important events and developments that took place in Jammu and Kashmir during 2006.

January 2006: APHC Visits Pakistan

A 3- member delegation of APHC (A) comprising Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prof. A. G. Bhat and Bilal Lone visited Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan from January 2 to 7. The delegation met President Musharraf, PM Shaukat Aziz and ISI officers as well as leaders from PoK. They also traveled to PoK and met with survivors of the October 2005 earthquake. However, hardline Jamaat leaders in PoK and Pakistan refused to meet them and even the United Jihad Council issued a press release on 3 January criticising Kashmiri politicians involved in 'diplomacy' on the Kashmir issue for weakening their cause.

After returning from their visit, while Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed optimism, Bilal Lone felt that Pakistani leaders were circumspect in their meetings and the delegation did not return with any significant gain. Mirwaiz reportedly disclosed to a confidant that though Musharraf did not provide any details of the self-governance proposal, he indicated that it went beyond autonomy within the Indian constitution and lay somewhere between autonomy and independence. According to reports, constitutional control over the respective Kashmir regions should be restricted too defence and external affairs. Both the Kashmir units across the LoC will exist as 'semi-sovereign states' which would conduct their own elections and their own prime ministers. Musharraf also emphasised the need for demilitarisation as a pre-requisite for self-governance.

Musharraf appreciated the Indian PM's positive approach but felt that his actions were inhibited by different departments of the government and some politicians as well as the opposition. Musharaff was reportedly unhappy with the Indian response to the self-governance proposal, which he felt was an acceptable solution to the Kashmir dispute. Responding to the fears of the APHC regarding the UJC's role, Musharraf apparently reassured them that the militants would be kept under check at least until talks with India were progressing. It was reported that regarding other secessionist leaders, Musharraf said that Yasin Malik (JKLF) would remain independent but he assured them that they would keep S. A. S. Geelani under check. However, he expected Shabir Shah (JKDFP) to eventually join the APHC (A).

According to some reports, the DG, ISI reportedly agreed to the Mirwaiz's request for enhanced funding for the APHC (A) though it was also stated that the ISI would not henceforth independently fund the smaller constituent (except Nayeem Khan (National Front); only the Executive Council members would continue to receive funds. The ISI chief told the visiting separatists that Geelani would be kept in check by stopping funding of APHC (G) constituents (other than Geelani).

During their visit, the Hurrriyat leaders also met the members of Kashmir Committee who informed them that though they were not in favour of Musharraf's proposals, yet they would support the dialogue process if it were to the satifaction of Hurriyat and the Pakistan Government. In PoK, the Hurriyat leaders met Anwar Khan (President) and Sikander Hayat Khan (PM) but did not discuss the resolution of Kashmir problem as they gained the impression that the Pakistani establishment had significant influence over them. The visiting delegation also held meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. During their meeting with APHC (A) activists in PoK the visiting separatist delegation reportedly came to know that the JeI leadership in PoK and Syed Salahuddin (Chief Commander/HM) were planning to persuade Geelani to merge his party with the JeI.

It was evident after the visit that the Hurriyat (Moderate) was clearly following the direction showed by Islamabad. This is why the separatists fell in line with the proposals on demilitarisation and self-governance. The Mirwaiz stated his desire to tour the Jammu region to garner support for these proposals. The hardline leader Geelani meanwhile continued to maintain his rigid outlook and observers say that he is likely to get further isolated in the days to come as his allied parties are going to suffer due to stoppage of funding from Pakistan, which is likely to encourage many of the APHC (G) constituents to join the Mirwaiz.

25 February 2006: Reactions to PM's Round Table Conference
The Round Table Conference called by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 25 February 2006 was generally well received by mainstream parties though secessionist outfits were sceptical of its outcome and relevance. Mehboob Baig (Provincial President, NC), while welcoming the move, observed on 15 February that the agenda of the conference should have been clearly outlined, especially since India had rejected the NC's autonomy proposal. Omar Abdullah (NC chief) also noted that its success would depend on how many people attended the conference. M. Y. Tarigami (CPM, MLA) welcomed the step but called upon the Centre to intensify its efforts to involve other groups in th process. Mehbooba Mufti (PDP chief), addressing a party workers convention in Anatnag on 15 February welcomed the initiative taken by the PM to broaden the dialogue process and said that only by involving all groups could the process be made fruitful. Peerzada Sayeed (PCC chief), Nirmal Singh (BJP), Bhim Singh (JKNPP), Hakim Yaseen (People's Democratic Forum) and Sat Pal (BSP) also hailed the move.

APHC (A) leaders, other than Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, reacted negatively to the invitation to attend conference at a meeting (Srinagar- February 16) of the forum. They argued that there was no emergent need for such a conference at this time and a meeting of all groups would only create a 'messy' situation. Reports indicate that Bilal Lone (PC – Bilal), wary of an invitation to his brother Sajjad, felt that the conference was being convened hastily at an improper time merely to discredit the APHC (A). Maulvi Abbas Ansari accused the New Delhi of trying to create confusion in secessionist ranks by this move. Talking to reporters, Shabir Shah of JKDEP said on 16 February that the conference was being organised in view of the proposed visit of the US President though he deflected a question about his participation by saying that, if invited, he would consult his party.

Hardliner Geelani was caught in a difficult position - a softening on self-governance and dialogue with India will erode his credibility, while inflexibility will lose him critical support from across the LoC. Interestingly, the JeI Pakistan, which is itself opposing Musharraf in Pakistan, has encouraged him to take the latter course. His frequent public statements released from time to time by his office in Srinagar indicate that Geelani expectedly has chosen to follow the Jamaat line. In this scenario, Geelani may be expected to attempt to retrieve his position by recapturing the Jel J&K's leadership in election due later this year. This may, however, be difficult until he adopts a more realistic stand, as Jel cadres fear that his leadership may place the organisation in difficulties.

Observers say that although Pakistan is unlikely to abandon Geelani soon, these developments are likely to futher reorder secessionist ranks in favour of the the Mirwaiz- led APHC (A), allowing Pakistan to claim greater legitimacy for the Mirwaiz. Already, two more constituents, Democratic Political Movement (DPM) and Muslim Khwateen Markaq (MKM), have established contact with the rival APHC (A). This may encourage the APHC (A) to be more aggressive, especially as along as it feels left out of the dialogue process.

26-28 February 2006: Reactions to Round Table Conference

Several participants in the Round Table Conference (RTC) have later expressed their appreciation of the exercise, even as secessionist outfits predictable continued to criticise the government's initiative. Mufti Sayeed of the PDP lauded Prime Minister Singh for holding the Round Table Conference and expressed support for the suggestion that the Kashmir issue should be approached with an open mind. Peerzada Sayeed (PCC Chief) appreciated the RTC and hoped that the secessionist leaders would attend the next conference. However, Arun Jaitley (General Secretary, BJP), addressing a press conference, criticised the Centre for not doing proper “homework” before organising the RTC resulting in the absence of the “real” participants, i.e., the Hurriyat and the other separatist leaders. Nevertheless, state BJP leaders Dr. Nirmal Singh and Prof. Hari Om, who attended the RTC, welcomed the opportunity it afforded to express their views.

The only secessionist figure that attended the conference, Hashim Qureshi (J&K Democratic Liberation Party), admitted that the absence of secessionist leaders had been felt at the conference but accused the APHC (A) of doing so at the behest of Pakistan. The APHC (A) in a press release on 27 February alleged that the conference was only a ploy to keep the Kashmir issue in abeyance. On his part, Geelani charged India with enacting a “drama of dialogue”. Sajjad Lone reportedly told an associate that he had been inclined to attend but the decision of the major secessionist groups to stay away had left him with no option.

The press gave the RTC wide and largely positive coverage, though seeral newspapers observed that the absence of the secessionist groups was a liability. English daily Kashmir Images in its editorial (Feb 27) hoped that the process of such conferences might take practical shape in coming months. It noted that the PM had wisely left the doors open for the APHC and other secessionist groups to join the process and, in the changed scenario such people could not keep the historical Kashmiri distrust of New Delhi alive for too long.

Urdu daily Srinagar Times editorially (Feb 27) observed that the conference could not be called a failure but absence of separatist leaders had been felt. Another Urdu daily Al Safa in its editorial (Feb 27) held that although organising the RTC was not a bad decision, the meet failed to achieve desired results due to the absence of separatist leaders. However, since the Kashmir issue had attained centre-stage, it pressed for concerted efforts to resolve the issue. English daily The Greater Kashmir was more critical in its editorial (Feb 27), charging that the whole exercise was undertaken in haste without dialogue would be meaningless. However, Geelani has scheduled meetings of the APHC (G) and his own party Tehrik-e-Hurriyat Kashmir on Feb 18-19 to take a formal decision on his participation in the conference. The JeI J&K also discussed (Srinagar Feb 16) a possible invitation to the party and decided that if the APHC (G) refused to attend then it would follow suit. The party, however, observed that a dialogue was the right means to resolve the Kashmir issue but the agenda of the proposed conference needed to be clarified. The press appreciated the move. Urdu Dailies Roshni, Tameel-e-Irshad and Srinagar Times welcomed the conference as a big step towards an early resolution of Kashmir issue. The Urdu daily Sandesh from Jammu noted that the proposed conference had been generally welcomed by all prominent political parties.

10-12 March: Pugwash Conference in Islamabad, Pakistan

Pugwash, the Rome-based NGO with an interest in conflict management, organised the second major conference on Kashmir on 10-12 March in Islamabad, Pakistan. The first conference that was held (December 2004) at Kathmandu, Nepal offered an opportunity for leaders from across the LoC in Kashmir to meet and discuss the Kashmir issue. Twenty-six persons, including secessionist and mainstream leaders from India were issued visas to attend the conference by the Pak High Comission. Amongst the secessionist invitees, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was unable to attend the conference due to illness. Prof A.G. Bhat, in Pakistan since early January, represented the APHC (A) at the conference. Though Geelani was keen to attend the conference, a majority of his allies in the forum's Shoura argued that his attendance in Islamabad was unjustified as the forum had already abstained from participating in the Round Table Conference convened by the PM, especially when mainstream Kashmiri leaders would also be present in Islamabad. Geelani conveyed to Prof. Khurshid Ahmed (Secretary-General, Jel Pak and Senator) and his Pak-based son Nayeem Geelani that he wanted to use the Pugwash Conference only as an excuse to visit Pakistan. Both dissuaded him from making the trip, as the environment in Pakistan for the hardliners was adverse and the Jel was preoccupied with the 'movement' against the regime.

12-14 April 2006: Kashmir Dialogue: Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation

Sushoba Barve of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR), Delhi organised a two-day intra-Kashmir dialogue in Jammu (12-13 April) followed by a one-day session in Srinagar (14 April) with participants from Pakistan, PoK, Northern Areas and J&K. The conference made specific recommendations under three categories: dialogue process and its mechanism, CBMs and solutions to the Kashmir issue, which would be put before the governments of India and Pakistan. The valley press also widely covered the proceedings of the conference.

On the second day of the conference recommendations on dialogue process and its mechanism included multi-religious, multi-regional, comprehensive and co-political dialogue process that should be suitable and exhaustive without any pre-conditions and suggested various platforms for interstate dialogue both with India and Pakistan, to be available for facilitating dialogue process with Indian and Pak NGOs to take the initiative in providing this. On confidence building measures it recommended strengthening of bilateral CBMs, opening of old-traditional routes for the people and trade and Pakistan to also strengthen internal CBMs. Asking for simplification of procedure for travel across the LoC it advocated approaching militants for shunning violence. It also recommended bringing the security forces under the purview of the State Human Rights Commission, gradual withdrawal of forces from peaceful areas and withdrawal of draconian anti-militancy laws. Regarding solutions it held that these should be as per the wishes of undivided J&K (pre 1947), re-union of entire undivided Jammu and Kashmir including Northern Areas and complete independence as an ideal option. While observing that solution should not be pro-India or pro-Pak but should be pro the people of J&K, it advocated solution to involve secularism, federalism, democracy, sovereignty and independence.

The Valley press covered the proceedings of the conference . Urdu dailies Srinagar Times, Aftab and Wadi ki Awaz noted Geelani's remarks that he did not participate in the conference as instead of paying attention to the real issues, unnecessary discussions were held in such conferences. Urdu daily Tameel-e-Irshad observed on the eve of the conference that such events provided a platform for pro-India, pro-Pak independence groups to share their views. Another Urdu daily Al Safa editorially commented, in the context of the grenade attacks in Srinagar city only the day before, that the conference witnessed the participation of a number of important personalities from PoK and stressed on demilitarisation and broadening the peace process.

16 April 2006: G.M. Shah Proposes an Intra-Kashmir Conference

G.M.Shah (former CM, J&K and President, Awami National Conference) announced an intra-Kashmir Conference on the theme 'In Search of Peace and Solution' that would be held on 2-4 June at Srinagar. Among those invited to the conference would be representatives of political parties and militant outfits as well as members of the intelligentsia. He also planned to invite the PM and the Presidents of Pakistan and PoK. He appealed to the governments of India and Pakistan to permit the invitees, including militants, to attend his conference. While hailing the militants for internationalising the Kashmir issue, he clarified that the had no relations with them and appealed to the militants to join the dialogue process. He expressed his willingness to participate in the second Round Table Conference (RTC) to be held in Srinagar, if invited, and regretted that he had not been invited in the first RTC convened by the PM. The Valley press did not give much coverage to Shah's proposed conference.

23 April 2006: Polling for Assembly bye-elections

Healthy polling was reported in the 4 Assembly Constituencies (Pattan, Rafiabad, Sanagrama, and Bhaderwah) where by-elections were held today despite calls for a poll boycott by secessionists and militant outfits. In the valley, Rafiabad Assembly Constituency (AC) witnessed 72.8% polling (compared to 52.5% in 2002 Assembly elections). Pattan 67% (compared to 41.5% in 2002) and Sanagrama 62.2% (compared to 23.1% in 2002). in Jammu region 76.04% polling was registered (compared to 54.24% in 2002) in Bhanderwah AC from where Ghulam Nabi Azad (CM J&K) is contesting. In poll related violence, militants exploded two grenades (one in Pattan AC and other in Sanagrama AC) resulting in injuries to 22 persons including 5 Sfs today. One live grenade was detected in Pattan AC which was defused by the SF. In the run-up to polling, three grenade explosions and one IED blast took place (three in Pattan AC and one in Sanagrama AC) without any injuries on 23 April. Geelani (APHC-G) and Shabir Shah (JKDFP) were put under house arrest in view of their anti-election activities.

26-28 April 2006: Visit of Swedish Delegation

Swedish diplomats Ingolf Kieson and Trouve Niclas visited Srinagar to assess the views of the secessionist leaders on the next Round Table Conference (RTC), the dialogue process with the Indian government and to assess the ground situation. They also explored the possibility of APHC (A) leaders attending two conferences being organised in September/October this year by the Swedish government (one by 'Research Department of Defence Analysis-Asia Pacific', Sweden and the other by 'Swedish Defence Research Agency') to discuss Indo-Pak relations vis-a-vis Kashmir issue. Kieson told to APHC (A) leaders that in the proposed conferences delegates from secessionist outfits like the APHC (A() as well as mainstream political parties from Pakistan, PoK and India would be invited. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Prof. A. G Bhat conveyed their willingness to participate in the conferences. Complaining that the European Union (EU) was not openly supporting the Kashmiris, Mirwaiz exhorted the diplomats to use the EU's influence over the GOI to accelerate the process of resolving the Kashmir dispute. The Swedish delegation also met with Geelani, who blamed the Indian government for its rigid and inhuman policies and recounted the instances of human rights violations. The Swedish diplomats also interacted with Shabir Shah (JKDFP), Yasin Malik (JKLF), Mian Abdul Qayoom (Kashmir Bar Association) and Masarrat Alam (Muslim League). Shabir Shah blamed GOI for not taking any meaningful and result oriented steps towards resolution of Kashmir issue and Masarrat Alam claimed self determination was the only solution to Kashmir issue.

30 April 2006: Militants Target Hindus

In two separate incidents, terrorists killed 32 Hindus and injured 10 in the Jammu region. In the first incident at Lalon Gala Dhok (15 Kms from Basantgarh), PS Basantgarh, district Udhampur, seven suspected LeT militants kidnapped and killed 13 persons (at least 12 of whom were Hindus) who had gone to graze their cattle at Lalon Gala Dhok in the late afternoon on 30 April. In addition, two Muslims had been kidnapped initially but they were subsequently released. In the second incident, in the intervening night of 30 Apirl/1 May, 12-13 suspected LeT terrorists, dressed in civil clothes and combat Army uniforms, assembled the house owners of 2 sub-clusters of houses named Ponchara and Thawa of village Kulhand, PS and district Doda separately for a meeting. The Muslim families were segregated and directed to go back to their houses and thereafter the Hindu families remaining were fired upon by the terrorists killing 11 persons in Ponchara and 8 in Thawa. Out of the 10 injured, the 8 seriously injured persons have been shifted to Jammu for treatment. Since 2000, there have been 58 attacks on Hindus in which 392 persons have been killed. Of these, 16 attacks were in Doda district alone in which 90 persons were killed and 7 attacks in Udhampur district in which 37 Hindus were killed. However, after 2002 there has been only one incident in Doda in which one Hindu was killed. Last year, of the 7 attacks on Hindus (28 killed), 4 (20 killed) were in Rajouri district. The current spate of attacks may be seen as an attempt by terrorists to register their presence in view of the unprecendented turnout of voters in the recent by-elections in the state, the forthcoming Round Table Conference at Srinagar and the general impression that Pakistan has restricted support to militant outfits.

21-22 May 2006: J&K: Militant Threats to Round Table Conference

Two suspected Pak terrorists (LeT) carried out a fidayeen attack in Srinagar on 21 May killing 5 (including 2 SF) and injuring 22 (including 10 SF) and terrorists belonging to JeM carried out a grenade blast in Srinagar on 22 May injuring 12 before the forthcoming Round Table Conference (RTC) in Srinagar on 24-25 May. Media reports indicated that there were significant intelligence inputs about the plans of terrorists to carry out more demonstrative violent attacks in the run up to the RTC.

In view of the above mentioned threats, continued demonstrative violent actions in recent days and the resolve of almost all the terrorist outfits operating in the Valley to carry out spectacular violent actions to register their presence, target the VVIPs and disrupt the RTC, there is an urgent need to reinforce the security arrangements to make them foolproof during the visit of the Prime Minister to Srinagar.

24-25 May 2006: Reactions to PM's Round Table Conference

The Second Round Table Conference (RTC) convened by Prime Minister Singh evoked positive response from the mainstream political parties but the secessionist groups tried to denigrate the importance of the conference. Militant outfits expressed gratitude to the people for observing bandh across the Valley on the occasion of RTC and claimed the bandh reflected people's rejection of the RTC. The local press, both in the Jammu region and the Valley prominently covered the constitution of 5 working groups but also noted the inconvenience faced by the people due to unprecedented security arrangements. The people by and large appreciated the initiative of holding the RTC in Srinagar and the proposal for facilitating the return of youth from Pakistan and rehabilitation of those affected by militancy. Ghulam Nabi Azad (CM, J&K), expressed satisfaction over the RTC and described it as a constructive beginning. However, Azad was critical of the Hurriyat not attending the RTC and termed it a 'blunder'. Mufti Mohd. Sayeed (Patron, PDP) and Mehbooba Mufti (President, PDP) voiced satisfaction that most of the issues raised by the party had been reflected in the PM's statement. Farooq Abdullah (Patron, NC) and Omar Abdullah (President, NC) were appreciative of PM coming to Kashmir and M.Y.Tarigami (CPM, MLA) while expressing satisfaction, stressed on the need for release of detenues. However, Dr. Nirmal Singh (President, BJP State Unit) alleged that the assurance to discuss autonomy and self rule indicated non-seriousness of the GOI about solving the Kashmir issue. Expressing satisfaction, JK National Panthers Party (JKNPP) leadership opposed demilitarisation and grant of any political or financial package without considering the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh region. Among the secessionists, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (Chairman/APHC-A) questioned the necessity of holding the RTC and alleged that it was an attempt to sidetrack the Kashmir issue. He, however, admitted that some worthwhile ideas had come up in the RTC but doubted their future implementation on the ground. Advocating dialogue primarily between the secessionists and the GOI he opined that the RTC should have been the culmination of the dialogue process between the Hurriyat and the GOI and not a parallel process. He claimed that the RTC could be successful only if the people across the LoC and Pakistan were included in the consultative process on Kashmir issue and referred to undivided J&K (pre 1947) position for seeking solution. Prof. A. G. Bhat (Muslim Conference) alleged that the RTC was a failure and recommended solution of Kashmir issue as per UN resolutions and if not, then through talks by involving people of J&K, Pakistan and India. Geelani termed the RTC a futile exercise and accused that the conference was an attempt to sideline the Kashmir issue. Yasin Malik (JKLF) in an interview (24 May) to a Pakistani newspaper, asked for a dialogue process similar to the one underway with Naga militants and recommended the inclusion of ideological political forces and militant leadership in the dialogue process.

11 June 2006 Annual Amarnath Yatra

The annual Amarnath Yatra commenced on 11 June and concluded on 9 August. Heavy security arrangements were made along the entire route of the yatra as security forces reportedly had the following inputs about possible militant attacks.

On 21 June, unidentified terrorists lobbed a grenade at a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims from Rajesthan, resulting in injuries to 7 persons. They were on their way from Baltal area to Srinagar. This is the first incident of terrorist violence targeting Amarnath pilgrims during the Yatra this year. Srinagar-Baltal route had been identified as one of the vulnerable segments of the Amarnath Yatra route.

27-29 June 2006: Visit of Baroness Emma Nicholson

Baroness Emma Nicholson (Member of European Parliament and Vice-Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee of European Parliament) along with Ms. Christina Martina Barreira (Political Counsellor) and Paul Emmet (Head of the Office, EU) visited Jammu and Kashmir (27-29 June). She arrived from Pakistan on the second leg of her tour. Baroness Nicholson is the Rapporteur for the 'Own Initiative Report' on Kashmir being produced by the European Parliament. The delegation interacted with a cross section of people from the entire spectrum of public life including the Chief Minister, Cabinet Ministers, representatives of major political parties (National Conference-NC, Peoples Democratic Party-PDP, CPM), senior army officers, officials of the state administration, representatives of NGOs, Kashmiri migrants, business community and members of various associations. However, Baronness Nicholson did not interact with leaders of secessionist outfits including the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). During the meetingts, the NC leaders advocated demilitarisation (phase-wise) and autonomy, while the PDP supported self governance as the most feasible solution to the Kashmir issue. In Indo-Pak context, she was briefed extensively on the confidence building measures (CBMs) specific to Kashmir, particularly the recent opening of Poonch-Rawalkot crossing on the LoC and was appreciative of these measures. Importantly, Baroness Nicholson sought views on the proposition of appointing a Joint Parliamentary Committee of Parliamentarians from India and Pakistan in her meeting with Ghulam Mohammad Mir (ex-former MP Congress) and Qazi Mohammad Bashir (Sessions Judge from Kotli, Pak Occupied Kashmir, who had arrived on a visit to Poonch on 20 June 2006. In her interaction with S.R. Naggal (Chairman, Displaced Chhamb Refugees) and Rajiv Chuni (Chairman, SOS-a NGO of Refugees from PoK), she stated that the agenda of European countries was to reduce the tension between India and Pakistan and the EU was keeping a close watch on the human rights violations in J&K.

6 July 2006: Creation of New Districts

In pursuance of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the Congress-Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) coalition government, the State Cabinet announced (Srinagar, July 6) the creation of 8 new districts (Bandipore, Ganderbal, Kulgam & Shopian in the Kashmir Valley and Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi & Samba in Jammu region), 3 new sub-divisions (1 in the Valley and 2 in Jammu region) and 13 new Tehsils (7 in the Valley, 3 each in Jammu region and Leh). The Cabinet decision in this regard was the outcome of the recommendations of Wazir Commission. People across the state and political parties hailed the decision with few protests reported from areas which felt that their aspirations had not been addressed. The creation of new districts was expected to mitigate the difficulties faced by the people in militancy-affected areas by bringing administrative appartus closer. The move was also hailed widely in the English and Urdu press with almost all dailies appreciating the government's decision. The secessionists tried to undermine the decision with both factions of the Hurriyat issuing statements that it would have no impact on the ongoing movement in Kashmir and was an administrative measure.

11 July 2006: Effect on Tourism following grenade attacks

Immediate and widespread exodus of tourists from the Valley was reported following serial grenade attacks in Srinagar (11 July) and Gulmarg (12 July). The incoming tourists cancelled their bookings in hotels and houseboats which were already reporting low occupancy since the first spate of grenade attacks on tourists between 28 April - 31 May. Almost 90 per cent of the houseboats were reported to be lying vacant since most of the occupants preferred to move into hotels or leave Srinagar on security considerations. The Amarnath Yatris, who normally spend a few days in Srinagar for sight seeing, also proceeded directly to Jammu without halting at Srinagar. This development led to resentment among the hotel/houseboat owners, shikarawalas, tour and taxi operators as well as the shopkeepers, who have been affected adversely. These groups, while condemning the violent attacks, have demanded a probe to identify the perpetrators of violence. Tourist influx during the period 1-9 July was considerably lower by about 35 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. Secessionist groups sought to project the attacks to challenge the Indian government's claim that normalcy had returned to Kashmir. The Valley press gave wide coverage to the serial blasts and Urdu daily 'Srinagar Times' observedin its editorial (July 12) that the attacks could adversely impact the ongoing tourist season and consequently, the livelihood of Kashmiris.

15-16 August 2006: Differences Emerge Between Geelani and Salahuddin

Differences have cropped up between SAS Geelani (Chairman, APHC-G) and Syed Salahuddin (Supreme Commander, HM) over Geelani's pursuit of establishing his party, Tehreek-e- Hurriyat (TeH), in PoK and his efforts to replace Malik Abdullah (PoK based representative of TeH) with GM Sofi. While Salahuddin is not favourably disposed to change Malik Abdullah and he is against GM Sofi, Geelani is convinced that Malik Abdullah is not evincing much interest in his party work and he is determined to change him. Salahuddin had advised Geelani that JeI/Pak & PoK leaders would not be favourably inclined to the efforts of Geelani to establish his party in PoK and even the Kashmiri diaspora in PoK, which was preoccupied with its survival pursuits after the 8 October 2006 earthquake, would not support Geelani's efforts. Geelani, however, argued that the other PoK based leaders like Farooq Rehmani (Peoples Freedom League) were also ineffective and were more inclined towards APHC (A). On Salahuddin's advise of opposition from JeI/Pak & PoK leaders to his efforts to revive TeH in PoK, Geelani countered that when other Kashmiri secessionist groups like Awami Action Committee (Mirwaiz's party), Peoples Conference (Bilal's party) and Muslim Conference (Prof. Bhat's party) could have their representatives in PoK, he saw no reason for anyone to object to his party's representative in PoK. Salahuddin forcefully opposed Geelani's choice of GM Sofi as replacement of Malik Abdulah holding Sofi responsible for the split in HM by backing Majid Dar faction and causing humiliation to HM leadership. He expressed fear of rebellion by HM commanders in case Sofi was chosen to represent TeH in PoK. However, on Geelani's insistence, Salahuddin advised him to choose some suitable person from the Valley who should be from HM cadre. Clearly, the TeH has not made much headway in the Valley and Geelani is feeling increasingly sidelined after the Jamaat elections in the State, where despite open rebellion by pro-Geelani group within the JeI, Geelani did not draw much support. He appears determined to revive his own party both in the Valley and across and notwithstanding Salahuddin's counsel, Geelani would pursue to establish his party in PoK. Media reports indicated growing differences between Salahuddin and Geelani though experts say that this may not affect their general understanding on the direction of the Kashmir movement..

27 September 2006: Separatists Condemn Afzal Guru Death Sentence

Cutting across party lines various mainstream political parties, secessionist groups and militants have condemned the judiciary's decision to award death sentence to Afzal Guru for his role in the December 2002 attack on the Indian parliament which nearly brought India and Pakistan to a war. Several parties and outfits also appealed to the Indian government to reconsider the decision in view of the ongoing talks between India and Pakistan and the changed political scenario in the sub-continent and at international level. Some parties have also appealed to the President for mercy and the militants have warned of serious consequences, in case Afzal Guru was executed. Reacting to the development, Mehbooba Mufti (President, PDP) opined that it would impact the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and claimed that during her interaction with Prime Minister about five months back, she had conveyed to the latter that such a move would adversely affect the efforts being made by New Delhi to take Kashmiris into confidence. Abdul Gani Vakil (Vice-President, PCC) appealed to the President to sympathetically consider the case. MY Tarigami (MLA, CPM) to a Kashmir news agency that he alongwith the other CPM activists would meet the President to impress upon him to review the decision keeping in view the present political situation in Kashmir. Both factions of the Hurriyat have condemned the fixation of execution date and in a press release the APHC(A) alleged that decision was politically motivated which would adversely impact the efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue. Among the militant outfits, a spokesman of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) termed the execution of Afzal Guru as the worst human rights violation which tantamounts to the murder of Kashmiri 'quom'. While condemning the death sentence to Afzal Guru, a press release of United Jehad Council (UJC) appealed to all international human rights organisations to prevent India from acting on this decision. The militants also warned of serious consequences in case of execution of death sentence.

13 November 2006: Reactions to Pakistan's Proposals on Self Governance

Separatist outfits in Kashmir responded to the Kashmir proposals of President Musharraf saying that India should agree to demilitarisation and self governance as steps to a resolution of the Kashmir issue. However, while the moderate group welcomed these proposals wholeheartedly, the hardliners were guardedly critical while some of the Pak-based militant groups rejected the proposals altogether. APHC (A) leaders appreciated the Pakistani proposals and urged the Indian government to respond positively though some leaders warned that they may be accused of compromising their position by accepting self governance. Hardliner Geelani said at a Friday prayer meeting that he supported demilitarisation from both J&K and PoK which should ultimately facilitate an UN-administered plebiscite. Geelani however castigated the Pakistan government for succumbing to pressure from the US, which, according to Geelani, wanted the conversion of the LoC into a permanent border. Militant outfits rejected the self governance proposal. The LeT stated that it had not rendered sacrifices for autonomy, division of Kashmir or formation of government. Another press statement in the name of Shoura-e-Jehad (a platform of militant outfits defunct since 1998) urged the people to support the ongoing struggle and asserted that the only solution acceptable to the mujahideen was implementation of the UN resolutions. However, it welcomed demilitarisation and urged India not to miss the opportunity to withdraw its forces from Kashmir. The United Jehad Council (UJC), which mostly represents the Kashmiri outfits, had earlier welcomed the demilitarisation proposal but refrained from commenting on self governance.

26 November 2006: GOI-APHC Talks

Under pressure from its constituency to find a solution to the Kashmir issue, the APHC-A is reportedly keen on holding the next round of talks with the Indian government as soon as possible. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Prof. A. G. Bhat have conveyed their concurrence to Prof. Saifuddin Soz of the Congress Party about APHC (A)'s participation in the next round of dialogue with the Prime Minister. APHC (A) plans to visit PoK sometime in mid December in expression of solidarity with quake victims in that area and their response to the dialogue process would depend much on the guidelines they were likely to get from Pakistan during the visit. Reports indicate that PoK based leaders/journalists having proximity to the APHC (A) would seek to impress upon the latter to mobilise support for Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's proposals of demilitarisation and self governance. It is likely that this may be highlighted during the next round of talks. Significantly, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq mooted a three-point plan to resolve the Kashmir issue, which inter-alia includes NATO to oversee demilitarisation of both parts of Kashmir and demolition of the LoC. After such demilitarisation, the APHC (A) would make militants hold to their actions and get them along to strengthen the peace process and to start dialogue with both the countries with proper roadmap for the future dispensation of Kashmir. He has also highlighted that APHC (A) would not shy away from participating in a democratic process, if the situation so demanded. Mirwaiz had met some American Congressmen led by Dan Burton (Republican) in New Delhi on 28 November where he discussed the Pakistani proposals of self governance.

1-11 December 2006: Pakistan's Proposals for Demilitarisation and Self-Governance

President Musharrraf reportedly asked a small group of the APHC (A) to visit Pakistan to discuss his proposals for demilitarisation and self-governance. Media reports in the Pakistani press indicated that Islamabad is keen to firm up formal proposals in consultation with moderate Kashmiri secessionist leaders before the next round of Indo-Pak talks. The Mirwaiz said that during his meeting with Musharraf, the Pakistani President expressed confidence that demilitarisation would help pave the way for an early resolution of the Kashmir issue. Musharraf wanted the APHC (A) to raise this demand on both sides of the LoC and moblise public opinion to create a united voice from Kahmir in favour of his proposals. Mirwaiz was, however unable to provide any details of self-governance proposal. A Hurriyat meeting agreed accordingly to send a small delegation to Pakistan. Talking to the media on 4 December, separatist leader Prof. Bhat outlined his conception of self-governance according to which after demilitarisation on both sides of the LoC, elections should be held on both sides and two governments established with their own Courts, Labour and Election Commissions and minimal interference from India and Pakistan. Hardline leader Geelani, however, remained adamantly opposed to the concept of self-governance. Addresing a seminar organised on 12 December by the APHC (G) on the occasion of Human Rights Day, he accused Musharraf of making a U-turn in his Kashmir policy. Geelani insisted that the Kashmir issue could only be resolved by implementation of the UN resolutions. Observers say that Geelani's continuing inflexibility and rigid stance against Pakistani proposals could ultimately cost him Pakistan's longstanding support.