The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hurriyat split lifts Delhi hope

New Delhi, Sept. 11: The Centre is keenly watching the drama triggered by the split in the Hurriyat Conference, hoping to push its agenda on Kashmir better once the hardliners are out.

“A division in the Hurriyat Conference is good for the government,” a senior official said. “The Hurriyat, despite never having fought an election, has always claimed to represent the majority Kashmiri opinion. The split will finally get rid of pro-Pakistan elements within the Hurriyat and make it easier for New Delhi to deal with the moderates.”

The separatist conglomerate split early this week after 12 of the 24 constituents of its general council expelled recently-elected chairman Maulvi Abbas Ansari, a moderate. The 12 were served notices by four members of the Hurriyat’s executive, demanding an explanation for their “unconstitutional” move.

“The Centre is willing to deal with all reasonable demands of Kashmiris, but cannot be expected to gain the confidence of individuals propped up by Pakistan,” a senior bureaucrat said.

The official was hinting at the hardliners within the Hurriyat who hold pro-Pakistan views and owe allegiance to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who was expelled from the Hurriyat executive and approached by half the general council constituents to lead them.

Though the home ministry is more inclined to do business with the moderates, it is still in no hurry to talk to the Ansari-led Hurriyat. “There is plenty of time and we will wait and watch how the ongoing power struggle in the organisation evens itself out,” the official said.

“After all, we have to work with an outfit which has some credibility among the section of Kashmiris who have so far remained outsiders. Otherwise, a dialogue will have no meaning.”

If the Centre is wary, the Panther’s Party is happy at the turn of events. Party chief Bhim Singh, considered close to many official Hurriyat leaders, including former chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, said: “It is a good omen.”

“It is in the best interests of the people of Kashmir. The Centre cannot deal with those whom Pakistan arms and feeds and finances. The present Hurriyat leaders are willing to talk in the best interests of Kashmiris who are tired of the constant fighting,” he said.

An optimistic Singh even vowed to demand the Assembly’s dissolution and fresh elections if these Hurriyat leaders were to join the mainstream. The Panther’s Party supports the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is speculation in the Valley that Delhi had a hand in engineering the differences in the Hurriyat. The Centre has been more inclined to talk to the conglomerate ever since Geelani was ousted.

He had triggered the rift in the outfit by demanding the expulsion of the Lone brothers, sons of slain leader Abdul Gani Lone, whose supporters had contested and won last year’s Assembly elections defying the Hurriyat’s diktat.

Delhi has blamed Geelani both for ensuring strict adherence to Islamabad’s line on Kashmir and the Hurriyat’s boycott of the polls.

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