Our Own Killed Lone, Maulvi Farooq, Not India: Bhat

Our Own Killed Lone, Maulvi Farooq, Not India: Bhat
Exonerating the Indian forces of long-held allegations of assassinating prominent Hurriyat leaders- Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone and JKLF ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani, leader of the Hurriyat Conference's moderate faction Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat admitted for the first time today, that the killings were actually 'an insider's job'.

Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, who was the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference when it was split into the hardline and moderate factions, categorically stated at a seminar on Sunday that the security forces had played no role in the killings of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone as well as Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani.

"Lone sahib, Mirwaiz Farooq and Prof. Wani were not killed by the army or the police. They were targeted by our own people. The story is a long one, but we have to tell the truth," he asserted, stopping short of naming any terrorist group which killed them or delving into the circumstances under which the murders took place.

Asked to identify the killers, Bhat said, "What is the need to identify them.... They are already identified."

The separatist leader was addressing a seminar on 'Role of intellectuals in the Kashmir movement' organised at a local hotel by JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik to commemorate Wani's death anniversary. The slain Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq's son, present Hurriyat Conference chairman Umar Farooq also did not contradict Bhat when he spoke at the seminar after him.

Speaking at the meet, Bhat, a professor of Persian at Sopore Degree College, said: "If you want to free the people of Kashmir from sentimentalism bordering on insanity, you have to speak the truth. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto once said that sometimes truth escapes the mouth. Here I am letting it out." He was also forthcoming in saying that the present movement against India was started by "us killing our intellectuals".

He added: "Wherever we found an intellectual, we ended up killing him. Let us ask ourselves: Was Prof Wani a martyr of brilliance or a martyr of rivalry?"

Mr Bhat, considered a moderate separatist, also seemed to be criticisng hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, when he said: “There was a hartal for five months and 112 people died. And at the end of it there is nothing by way of achievement. This is what happens when there is no thinking, no strategy. If you want to rid people of Kashmir of sentimentalism bordering on insanity, you have to speak the truth.”

Mr Bhat also criticised those who have been politicisng the deaths of Kashmiris: “These leaders still hail these sacrifices as if their only purpose is to get people killed... for the sake of it.”

Taking potshots at the rival Hurriyat group for adopting double standards, he said: "When we entered into talks with New Delhi, we were accused of being kafir (non-Muslim), and when you (the hardliners) talk you get away scot-free. This dichotomy in Kashmir politics should end."

Bhat also refused to be a part of any unity process between the separatist groups initiated by Umar Farooq. He avowed he would not be associated with any such move that would mean the "hegemony or aggrandisement of any person", making an oblique reference to Geelani.

Commenting on the five-month long protests and strike which jolted Kashmir in 2010, he said the Kashmiris did not achieve anything through this, adding that the local intellectuals refrained from writing on the issue.

Bhat, also expressed doubts if Pakistan would ever fight a war over Kashmir with India, "It is unlikely as both the nations understand its consequences." He also advocated against an armed movement against India in Kashmir, saying: "It will not have support from any quarter. What next? We should do the talking," he said.

Spelling out the benefits, he said negotiation was an art and the right way to move forward.

Bhat said that his brother Mohammad Sultan Bhat also fell to the bullets of those espousing the separatist cause.

"I had said this then and I am saying it now. There is no ambiguity or confusion in my mind," he said.

Reactions to Bhat's Remarks

Other moderate Hurriyat leaders chose to maintain a studied silence on Bhat's remarks.

Geelani refused to comment on the statements made by the former Chairman of the undivided Hurriyat Conference.

"I have nothing to say about their remarks," Geelani told PTI.

CPI(M) state secretary M Y Tarigami said Bhat's statement was "revealing" and the incidents need credible investigation.

"A credible investigation should be carried out so that responsibility for the killings is fixed," Tarigami said.

Sajjad Gani Lone, the youngest son of the slain leader, had blamed Geelani for the killing but retracted his statement few years later.

Jammu and Kashmir's Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda said that "the person involved in the killing of Mirwaiz Farooq is also buried in the same 'martyrs' graveyard' where the senior Mirwaiz was laid to rest".

"So this explains a lot. The killer and the killed are both declared as martyrs by them," Khoda said.

A senior Hurriyat leader, who did not wish to be named, said there was nothing new in Bhat's remarks.

"Bhat has made the same speech in 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) Assembly five years ago," the leader said.

Bilal Lone and Mirwaiz chose not to react to the statement.

Sources in the Hurriyat said that the leaders of the amalgam will maintain a "meaningful" silence over the remarks.

The moderate faction of the Hurriyat is unhappy with the way Geelani had handled the recent summer unrest in the Valley as many of them questioned the tactics of strikes and stone-pelting during a seminar yesterday.

State Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar described the admission by separatists as a "good development".

"It has taken them very long to admit the reality but it is better late than never," Sagar said.

He said the separatist leaders have to be "realistic" if they are serious about resolution of the Kashmir issue and should stop treating the mainstream parties as "untouchables".

"We have to sit together if Kashmir issue has to be resolved permanently. The separatists should support and strengthen the efforts of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in this direction," he said.

Condemning the statement, radical women's outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat said, "Bhat and Lone are out to sabotage the ongoing movement."

"The true leadership of Kashmir is put behind the bars and they are not even allowed to put forth their point of view before the people. Holding seminars is a far cry," acting chairperson of Dukhtaran Rifat Fatima said in a statement.

Kashmiris are now educated enough to differentiate between the genuine leaders and impostors, she said.

I May Suffer But Let Me Not Seal My Mouth: Bhat

After his remarks, Bhat said he might have to suffer but will not seal his mouth.

"By recognizing this stark reality, I am afraid I may also suffer, but let me suffer, let me not seal my mouth," Bhat told PTI.

The Hurriyat leader said he was determined to speak the truth irrespective of whether others do so or not. "I have said what I have said and I stand by it," he said.

In response to a question about unity efforts among the separatists, Bhat said it was "irrelevant" at the moment and that he would take a decision about it in his individual capacity if such a development takes place.

"I have never been part of and never will be part of any meaningless exercise. Why are you flogging us with the unity lash," the Hurriyat leader said.

Kashmir has Gained Nothing in Past Six Decades: Yasin

Earlier, JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik, in his address, said Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was the tallest leader Kashmir produced in the past 63 years. But added the Kashmir conflict dwarfed even the Sheikh.

"This holds true for all of us. Not one among the present crop of leaders should think that we are above Kashmir," he said.

Malik felt that in the past six decades, the Kashmiris had gained nothing, "We have given sacrifices and gone through bitter experiences. But there has been no achievement," he said.

Local Kashmiris as well as secessionists have long held the security forces responsible for the killings of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, Wani and Lone, slain in three separate incidents.

Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was murdered in cold blood on May 21, 1990 when unidentified gunmen barged into his Srinagar residence and assassinated him. Later, more than 60 people were killed when CRPF personnel fired upon his funeral procession near Islamia College in Srinagar. The firing on the mourners reinforced the ordinary Kashmiri's suspicions, aired by the separatists, that that government was behind Mirwaiz's killing.

A TADA court, however, jailed former militant Muhammad Ayub Dar last year for the killing. The CBI charge sheet said Dar, along with two other terrorists, shot the Mirwaiz. Its charge sheet named five Hizbul commanders also.

Wani was killed on December 31, 1993, by unknown gunmen. He was a professor of law in Kashmir University and an advocate of the JKLF's views. The academic was in the vicinity of the Hazratbal shrine en route to the university when he was shot.

Moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Lone, the father of Sajjad (the first separatist leader to stand in a general election) and Bilal, was killed on May 21 in 2002. He was gunned down by unidentified assailants at a rally to mark the death anniversary of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq at Eidgah ground in old Srinagar city.

The leader was fired upon seconds before the ceremony was to end. Bhat, then the Hurriyat Conference chairman, was also present at the rally. No charge sheet was filed either in the case of Wani's or Lone's killings.
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