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Hurriyat UN rift triggers free-for-all

Srinagar, May 20: A brawl erupted at a seminar at the Hurriyat headquarters today with rival factions clashing over a senior leader’s remark that UN resolutions cannot be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.

Moderate Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat had recently said that UN resolutions were too “complex and cumbrous” to be implemented, a deviation from the Hurriyat’s traditional stand. Days later, he voiced fears that militants might kill him for what he said.

Moderate Hurriyat chairperson Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has since clarified that UN resolutions form the bedrock of the azaadi (freedom) struggle. But he has ignored calls for action against Bhat by leaders such as Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan.

Trouble began at the seminar — organised on the eve of the death anniversaries of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, the father of the present chairperson, and Abdul Gani Lone, the father of separatist Bilal Lone — after Khan reiterated his demand for action against Bhat.

When a rival faction member stood up and raised slogans against Khan’s demand, the leader’s supporters charged at him and tore his shirt. Both sides then hurled chairs and furniture at each other and traded slogans.

Neither the Mirwaiz nor Bhat was present at the seminar. Jammu and Kashmir police have placed the Mirwaiz under house arrest, apparently to prevent any law-and-order breakdown on the twin anniversaries tomorrow.

The elder Mirwaiz was shot dead on May 21, 1990, and Abdul Gani Lone on his death anniversary 12 years later, possibly by militants opposed to their moderate views. However, no militant group has ever claimed a hand in the killings.

As trouble spiralled inside the hub, Shah’s supporters escorted him onto the lawns of the headquarters — located in Raj Bagh near the city centre — where he demanded that the Mirwaiz ask Bhat to apologise or expel him from the conglomerate.

“Bhat has violated Hurriyat’s basic constitution and he doesn’t deserve to be in it,” Shah said.

Molvi Abbas Ansari, who was chairing the seminar in the Mirwaiz’s absence, played down the incident. He said such things happened even in “Parliament or the Assembly”.

Shah is one of the 10 executive members of the moderate Hurriyat and Khan a member of its general council. So far, they are the only moderate leaders seeking Bhat’s expulsion. Some favour Bhat’s continuance; others are keeping their cards close to their chest.

All eyes are now focused on the Hurriyat’s “May 21 rally” at Eidgah tomorrow, where the Mirwaiz and other leaders are expected to address thousands of people. It is, however, not clear whether the rally will be allowed. No restrictions have been placed on it in the past.

In another incident, the police and stone-throwers clashed in Srinagar’s Saraf Kadal locality, disrupting traffic in parts of the old city. Calm was later restored.