STRANGE as it may sound, Javed Hussain Shah, the constable-turned militant-turned pro-government mili-tant-turned politician is now breaking bread with National Conference (NC) activists in Srinagar's heavily guarded MLA hostel. Shah has not been inducted into the Conference but on September 6 he broke his two-year-long association with the counter-insurgency kingpin Kukka Parrey of the militant group, Ikhwanul Muslimoon. Shah and his five associates, including his wife Naheed, have withdrawn from the electoral contest and have declared their unconditional support to Farooq Abdullah. Though NC spokesman Saifudin Soz has denied that the former militants and his associates have joined his party, the popular impression is that some deal has been struck with the former militants.
Shaking hands with the former ultras has been a cause of considerable embarrassment for Farooq Abdullah. The NC has been accusing the Congress of using former militants in its election campaign. Ironically, the NC leader who has been the loudest in this criticism, Ali Moham-mad Sager, is believed to have taken Javed Shah for a meeting with Farooq Abdullah to the latter's resi-dence. The meeting lasted an hour and this was followed by Shah's breaking away from the Awami League, the political wing of the Ikhwan Muslimoon. Shah is now a regular visitor to Abdullah's Gupkar Road residence. According to political observers, the NC may have to pay a price in the elections for its new-found friendship with Shah.
Kukka Parrey's reaction to Shah severing links with him has been surprisingly low-key. Of course, Shah has been expelled from the party and Parrey has accused him of indulging in extortion, thus giving the Awami League a bad name. He also described his former colleague as a non-entity always up "for sale". However, Parrey made it clear that even after the assembly elections and installation of an elected government, his boys would not surrender their arms. Said Parrey: "Our gun is neither the gun of India nor of Pakistan. It belongs to the people. We will lay down arms only if the people want us to do so."
Parrey, who is contesting from his home town Sonawari, seems to be fighting back to the wall. He has been deserted by most of his top colleagues. Before Shah's desertion, Mir Niyazi, the Awami candidate in the Lok Sabha elections and party general secretary, joined the Congress last month.
The surrendered militants are not the most popular of people in the Valley because of their strong-arm tactics and disruption of peaceful campaigning. The latest instance of this came when the local Ikhwan leader Papa Kishtwari forced a strike in Pampore, where Farooq was to address an election rally.
Papa's diktat to all residents not to venture out of their homes was breached marginally only after Government intevention. Similarly, in Anantnag, Ikhwan militants hold sway in most parts of the constituency. It is to be seen if the exit of Javed Shah and the negative influence of the counterinsurgents in the election campaign will lead the Government to consider the popular demand in the Valley that these former militants be disarmed and rehabilitated rather than be involved in the political process.