The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Victor to boys: Give up gun and let me fight

Ganderbal, Oct. 18: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today chose the Abdullahs’ bastion-turned-Waterloo to make an impassioned appeal to separatists and flaunt his regional credentials.

“I appeal to Kashmiri boys who have taken up the gun to lay down your arms. You have fought enough. It is now our turn to carry forward your fight in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly,’’ Sayeed told a victory rally in Ganderbal, where Omar Abdullah was defeated.

On a day when Kashmir was placed under Governor’s rule because the Congress and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) failed to bury their difference and form a government, Sayeed glossed over the unpleasant issues.

Instead, he spoke of the PDP’s vision for Kashmir: unite all sections of the people and bring the militants back into the mainstream.

He said the PDP was formed to look after the interests of the Kashmiris. It had no national agenda, a veiled dig at the Congress. Nor was it interested in promoting family and friends like the Abdullahs. Ironically, Mehbooba, the most important leader of the party, is his daughter.

He said the PDP wanted to “act as a catalyst’’ and restore Kashmir’s pride which had been trampled by Farooq Abdullah and his regime. “It is time we stopped the violence and the blood-letting. It is time we began talks and turned our back to the politics of hate.”

Sayeed said that whether the PDP was in government or in the opposition, its priority would be the cause of the people. He emphasised that the chief minister must be from the Valley, because the people there were alienated from the rest of the country. Only the PDP can truly represent the sentiments of the people, he added.

Sayeed praised Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and said New Delhi also knew the ground realities. The Centre had promised talks with elected representatives of Kashmir.

He appreciated the Prime Minister’s speech on Independence Day when he had admitted that mistakes had been made in Kashmir.

Vajpayee had also responded when the Hizb-ul Mujahideen had declared a ceasefire by sending the Union home secretary to open talks with the separatists. The Prime Minister had again taken the initiative and declared a unilateral ceasefire. He had also sent an emissary, Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant, to Srinagar to talk to all sections of the people.

Sayeed said Congress president Sonia Gandhi, too, had said her party favoured unconditional talks with the separatists. He said Kashmir had to work with all political parties in the country to get the state back on track.

He had spoken to the Congress chief on the need for reservation of seats in all educational institutions for Kashmiris. She had assured him that it would be done in the Congress-ruled states, Sayeed added.

He defended his demand for the chief minister’s chair, saying it had nothing to do with power. Sayeed said he had relinquished power many times before.

He said his main objective was to carry forward the people’s agenda and to ensure the abolition of the new anti-terrorism law. The abolition of the Special Operations Group and rehabilitation of the families of those killed by the militants or the security forces were also on top of his party’s agenda, he added. Sayeed was cheered when he said the families of militants should not be harassed by security forces.

The PDP leader lashed out at Abdullah for citing moral responsibility as justification for refusing to be caretaker chief minister till Monday.

Sayeed said Abdullah’s morality could not have been hurt if he remained in power till next week. Claiming that Abdullah was out to deprive the people of their right to a new government, Sayeed said the voters would never forgive the former chief minster.

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