The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dove hope for Delhi in Hurriyat churn

New Delhi, May 25: The outcome of the current wranglings within the Jamaat-e-Islami is still in the future, but Delhi is hopeful that perhaps this signals the emergence of a more moderate Hurriyat Conference leadership.

The developments are encouraging for Delhi as it comes in the wake of the Prime Minister’s peace initiative with Pakistan.

Bringing internal fissures out in the open, hardline Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani today reacted angrily to his outfit’s decision to replace him as its representative in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

“This talk of me not keeping good health is baseless,’’ Geelani said in Srinagar. The Jamaat has asked Sheikh Ali Mohammed to continue as its nominee in the Hurriyat on the grounds that Geelani is in poor health.

Mohammed had taken Geelani’s place initially when he was in prison.

“In fact, I am keeping away from the Hurriyat as it has failed to take action against the People’s Conference which indirectly contested the last Assembly poll,” Geelani said here.

The People’s Conference, led by Abdul Gani Lone’s sons, had unofficially flouted the Hurriyat diktat to allow a close family friend, Sofi Ghulam Mohiuddin, to contest the poll.

Lone was assassinated in Srinagar after he openly preached that violence could not be the solution to Kashmir’s problems.

According to Geelani, everyone in the state knows about Sofi’s closeness to the Lone family. Sofi is the forest minister in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government.

Seeking his pound of flesh from the Lone brothers, Geelani said he believes the People’s Conference has to answer for its decision to allow Sofi and several others to contest the election.

No action was taken by the Hurriyat after the Lone brothers said Sofi was no longer a member of their outfit and had contested in his individual capacity.

“I think the Lone family’s proximity to the minister is well known and, in all probability, the ministry might be run by them only. Indirectly, People’s Conference is with the government,” Geelani said.

The Lone brothers, Bilal and Sajjad, are moderates who have been against the cult of violence.

Geelani was also critical of the way the Hurriyat was functioning when he was behind bars. “Since my release from jail, scores of people have met me and are still coming here. Not a single person has expressed satisfaction with the way the Hurriyat is functioning. It does not matter whether individually I am satisfied or not,” he said.

Geelani dismissed suggestions that he might float a new organisation. He, however, kept the door open, saying “there is no need for that yet. But if the cause demands so, we will not hesitate.... It is a matter of principle that nobody or no organisation is bigger than the cause itself”.

Delhi is carefully watching the rumblings within the Hurriyat, though nobody is willing to say much before the developments play themselves out.

But the home ministry would be delighted if Geelani is kept out of the Hurriyat. Delhi considers him a hardliner who represents the extreme right-wing fundamentalist groups in Pakistan.

The Centre has never trusted him and believes he is a major hindrance to its plans for Kashmir. Delhi feels many of the smaller groups within the Hurriyat would have taken part in last year’s election if only Geelani had not called for a boycott. He was in jail but managed to send out signals through his supporters.

In hindsight, the Hurriyat’s decision to opt out of the poll appears to have been unwise, because they have since been marginalised in Kashmir.

Mufti’s healing touch policy has struck a chord with the people. Many rural Kashmiris now consider the People’s Democratic Party a symbol of their hopes. To that extent, Mufti has stolen the Hurriyat’s thunder.

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