Saturday, Jul 13, 2002
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Jammu & Kashmir
By Shujaat Bukhari
Sources said the Hurriyat chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, had conveyed to the Centre that until the two senior executive members are not released there was no possibility of going ahead with the process of dialogue, formally or informally. Prof. Bhat, who has been in touch with New Delhi through the emissaries among those who are known to be the part of Track-II, has said the Government is not "sincere in having a dialogue with the Kashmiri separatists which will facilitate the process to take off. They want to break the Hurriyat to achieve their desired results by promoting groups such as the Third Front,'' he is reported to have told these facilitators. Prof. Bhat, sources said, found himself in a difficult situation in the absence of the two senior leaders, besides missing Abdul Gani Lone. The Hurriyat executive virtually has been wound up as the former chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was planning a sojourn abroad. Though Moulvi Abbas Ansari is the one who is out, it has not proved to be of much help to Prof. Bhat in formulating strategies. Another senior member, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, is in jail.
The APHC, sources said, has stressed upon the "unconditional'' release of Mr. Geelani and Mr. Malik and also maintained that charges against them were "frivolous''. Though Lone has been replaced by his son, Bilal, in the Hurriyat executive, his presence would not be of much help to the chairman who has been left alone in decision-making. Prof. Bhat has chosen to be away at his Butengu village residence to avoid commenting on various issues. However, the routine press releases from the Hurriyat headquarters keep coming and a strike call has been given for July 13 to commemorate the killing of those who laid down their lives in 1931 while fighting the Dogra rule.
Sources also said Prof. Bhat who had a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, last week in New Delhi had raised the issue of releasing the two leaders to engage themselves in working out the possibilities for a dialogue with Delhi. The Hurriyat had made it clear to the Centre that participation in the elections was not possible before a "fruitful'' dialogue which could only take place after the APHC leaders are out of jail. Mr. Geelani is lodged in the Birsa jail and Mr. Malik in the Jammu Central Jail facing almost similar charges of channelling funds to the militants.
The Centre's initiative to rope in some prominent separatist leaders, including the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party leader, Shabir Shah, has received a setback with the much known `Third Front' not coming forward in favour of the Assembly elections and stressing for a dialogue which could guarantee maximum "political concessions'' to them. "We cannot go to the people empty-handed,'' said one of them.
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