“Until yesterday, I was a separatist. Today, I’m in the mainstream politics. Had I not been provided security, I too would have been killed. I would not have fought the elections,” says Sajad Gani Lone, chairman of Peoples Conference, which is an ally of the BJP.
The author of “Achievable Nationhood” and a minister in the erstwhile PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir goes on to add: “Since I have lost my father, I am morally duty-bound, I can’t support government’s decision.”
His father, a politician who later became a prominent Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, was assassinated in 2002 during a rally to mark the death anniversary of former Mirwaiz of Kashmir Moulvi Mohammad Farooq in Srinagar. Moulvi Farooq, father of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was assassinated in 1990.
Claiming that his father’s security was lowered a few months before his killing, the separatist-turned politician maintains, “I received his body with my own hands at home. I am not in a position to defend government’s decision (to withdrawal of security).”
Asked if it was good idea for Indian State to provide security to those people who talk about Pakistan, he replies, “Previously they would say the same thing about me. Today, they quote my example. So today again, they should again uphold my example. One should not be selective. And do remember this thing: Those who will pay the price are going to be the people other than those who commit the misdeeds.”
However, its not just the separatists, mainstream political leaders of Kashmir valley including former IAS officer Shah Faesal and PDP leader Waheed Parra have also lost their security cover. The state government on February 20 announced withdrawal or downgrading of security of 155 persons, including 18 separatists. The list included former IAS officer Shah Faesal and PDP youth president Waheed Parra.
The state administration’s “irrational” move came in the wake of the Pulwama terror strike that claimed the lives of 44 CRPF jawans on February 14.
While former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has slammed the government’s move to withdraw the security of separatist leaders, calling it a “childish act”, her predecessor and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has announced that his party would move court if the decision to withdraw the security cover to mainstream politicians was not revisited. On Monday, Omar in a series of tweets questioned the step taken by the governor administration and asked him to reconsider it.
“I would like to encourage @jandkgovernor to reconsider this step. If it is not revisited we will approach the courts & ask them to intervene,” Omar tweeted. Raising question over the security withdrawal, Omar said “the step was taken without taking into consideration inputs from central and state intelligence agencies but has been taken for political purposes only”.
“I have no doubt this step was taken without taking in to consideration inputs from central & state intelligence agencies which can only mean it’s been done for political purposes & there is an element of pick & choose at play here,” he said.
CPI (M) leader, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami believes, “The ruling BJP could not do anything worthwhile in Kashmir during all these years despite ruling Jammu and Kashmir with the PDP. Now for electoral gains they are taking token decisions just to hoodwink people in Jammu and rest of the country.”
“They are disarming political activists in Kashmir at a time when militancy is on the rise and they should have upgraded their security,” he maintains, wondering, “How will they contribute to genuine political and democratic processes in Kashmir in this kind of atmosphere? It virtually amounts to creating a political vacuum.”
The BJP is looking for prospective political gains in ensuing elections at the cost of lives of political activists in Kashmir but I hope people of India are wise enough to understand it, according to him.
In Jammu and Kashmir, over two dozen Panchayat representatives have been killed by militants for want of security in the past ten years.
Wondering as to why the security was provided in the first place, Lone laments the paradox that “those who were given security were not threat to the government (Indian State). In fact, the people who were threat to their lives (mainstream political activists) are also the enemies of the government (Indian State).”