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Sunday, November 26, 2000

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Politics at a wedding


The `valeema' after the Khan-Lone wedding had a totally different tone. The ceasefire announcement overshadowed everything, says B. MURALIDHAR REDDY.

IT WAS unusual. A boy from Srinagar was getting married to a girl from the other side of the Line of Control. The high profile wedding in Rawalpindi last Sunday of Mr. Sajjad Lone, son of the senior APHC leader, Mr. Abdul Ghani Lone, and Ms. Asma Khan, only daughter of the JKLF chief, Mr. Amanullah Khan, was the talk of the town. As expected, politics followed in what started as a very private affair. Mr. Khan used the Nikahgathering to highlight his viewpoint. And, as if as part of the Mehr,the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, announced the Ramzan ceasefire.

The congregation of the militant organisations was taken by surprise. Even as the rhetoric continues on the ``farcical nature'' of the announcement, the militant outfits are groping for a strategy to respond to the unexpected move.

The valeemaor reception for the newly-weds had a different tone altogether. The ceasefire had overshadowed everything. The presence of the Indian High Commissioner, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, at the ceremony only added to it.

The Pakistan foreign office chose the same hour of the day to convey that the initiative meant little while the militant outfits communicated their serious misgivings about the motives of the Indian Government. They firmly believe that the initiative will take them nowhere near the goal of ``liberating Kashmir from the clutches'' of India. Their dilemma: they can ill afford to ignore it for more reasons than one.

The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), certified by Pakistan as the true representative of the Kashmiris, has welcomed the move though cautiously and urged the Indian Government to carry forward the initiative towards a meaningful dialogue. Could the Pakistan-based militant groups claim to be more passionate about the cause of the Kashmiris than the APHC?

Again, look at the positive international reaction to Mr. Vajpayee's announcement. Faced with a situation of international isolation and serious economic crisis, the military Government is bound to feel the pinch of the Indian move in the days to come. There are limits to the autonomous functioning of Pakistan-based militant organisations as they look to the establishment to sustain their activities.

The much-publicised Khan-Lone wedding also sent out a subtle but significant message of the Kashmiris' desire for equi-distance from both India and Pakistan.

The desire for a permanent peace and normality in the Valley was uppermost among the Kashmiris from either side who had congregated for the wedding.

It will no doubt be a battle between hardliners and pragmatists among the Jehadi groups and within the military establishment in the next few days.

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