Behind closed doors, govt approached separatists for peace

Pardeep Singh Bali

Behind closed doors, Jammu and Kashmir government approached separatists for helping it in bringing normalcy back but they expressed helplessness and instead, advised the representatives to approach militant commanders on the other side of line of control (LOC).

They told the government representatives that people are angry and in mood to listen. “Better approach those who patronized the dead Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. We did make an attempt but were told categorically to remain silent,” is what the Hurriyat leaders are believed to have told the government representatives.

According to sources, the separatist leaders who are believed to be heard by the youth in Kashmir are also feeling ‘helpless’ in controlling the situation, which has arisen following the death of Hizbul commander-Burhan Wani on July 8. “The state government led by Mehbooba Mufti had convened a secret meeting with all the popular separatists in the Valley, but had to face disappointment, as separatists expressed their helplessness,” said sources, privy to the government.

The sources added that the separatists have made it clear that the ‘prevailing situation is out of their control and even if they issue any statement at present there would be no takers in the society.’ “The youth is angry and at this moment they will not listen to us,” sources said quoting veteran separatist leader-Syed Ali Shah Geelani, “We are in no control of the situation and whatever is happening in the valley is reaction to the government policies.” None of the separatist leaders agreed to engage itself in bringing peace and controlling situation in Valley, sources said.

Meanwhile, the separatists had suggested the state government to approach militant outfits in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and in-particular Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Sayeed Salahuddin. “At present only a call from HM can break the ongoing streak of violence,” separatists said, adding “Once the government manages to convince HM chief to issue statement asking youth to maintain peace, only then we can talk to enraged youth.”

Earlier, apprehensive that the violent unrest in Kashmir may prolong— as in 2008 and 2010, the state government had quietly reached out to the separatists, seeking help to control the situation. The sources said that the government representatives were sent to Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq- chairmen of the respective hardline and moderate factions of the divided separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference.

The government also tried to establish contact with Yaseen Malik, head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). But, the sources said, none of them have agreed to ask people to calm down or call off their protests in the wake of civilian killings in firing by police and paramilitary forces.

If sources are to be believed the separatist leaders had demanded from the government to lift curbs on them, remove curfew and allow them to hold protest marches before they “can issue appeals for peace”. However, the government has not agreed, fearing that if protest marches were allowed at this juncture, the situation may spin out of control.

On July 10, when the unrest was still building up, the government’s chief spokesperson and senior Cabinet minister Naeem Akhtar had publicly said that “we need the support of the Hurriyat Conference” to end the crisis. Geelani and the Mirwaiz – both detained in their houses – have in separate interviews to media said they were not in control of the situation as the current wave of violent protests in the Kashmir Valley was “spontaneous and not sponsored”.

“It is sort of a leaderless mass of frustrated Kashmiri youth who are pitted not only against the State but also against themselves. They don’t care about the physical losses they incur by throwing stones to attract live bullets,” observers said, adding “These youth were enraged at the government and enthused by a false vigour of self-righteousness (jihad) and they are rampaging on everything.”

“If anybody tries to sort of control them, they would turn against him or her. I don’t think separatist leaders can afford that,” observer said. Embarrassing the state government by suggesting it to approach banned militant outfit in Pakistan, the separatists have shrugged off the responsibility to control the damage caused to the property and lives in Kashmir.

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