With PDP’s Muzaffar Hussain Beigh sweeping North Kashmir both Er Rashid and Sajad Gani Lone failed to carry forward Abdul Gani Lone’s political legacy. Shah Abbas reports
Baramulla seat witnessed a different election contest because apart from PDP and NC, Sajad Gani Lone’s PC and Er Rashid’s Awami Attihad Party (AIP) was also in the fray. But finally both of them lost to the PDP wave.
PCs candidate Salmudin Bajad ended up with 71,154 votes, 6724 more than 2009 Lok Sabha contest when PC chief Sajad was himself in the fray and had secured 64,430 votes. Rashid could get only 22,090 votes.
Interestingly, during the election campaigning some of the fascinating pictures that came from North Kashmir were either of Sajad Gani Lone or Er Rashid.
According to Political pundits, both were relying on the legacy of late Abdul Gani Lone who had emerged as the most respected leader during mid-eighties from Kupwara.
While Sajad is trying to retain his father’s influence, Rashid, Lone’s one time associate, is literally mimicking him in and outside the state assembly to lay foundation to his political future.
Late Lone is very much known in the political circles for his rivalries with the tallest political figure of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Sheikh is well known as Sher-e-Kashmir and Lone is called as Sher-e-Kupwara. Both roared many times at each other and fought even on the floor of the state legislature.
There are many stories affiliated to Sheikh and Lone, in which both had used strongest words against each other.
Sheikh in 1978 said to Lone: “Tum Char Sau Bees Hau.” Lone answered back in a flash, “Tum Aath Sau Chalees Hau”.
Then came the phase of militancy which changed the political structure of Kashmir. Lone, one time minister, made a big leap from unionist camp to the separatist side.
Of late, an engineer with J&K Projects Construction Corporation, (JKPCC) Rashid wore Lone’s shoes in Assembly after he successfully fought the state assembly election in 2008 from Langate.
Rashid has attained the distinction of attracting maximum number of Speaker’s warnings and marshal actions. The way Lone once invited foreign militants to Kashmir, Rashid demanded dialogue with militants a number of times during his career as a lawmaker so far.
Lone’s shadow in the assembly, Rashid has had luck on his side after he jumped in the fray as his one time colleague and the son of Lone, Sajad, did not participate.
But Lone’s first political beneficiary was Ghulam Mohi-ul-din Sofi, who won from Handwara, in 2002 as a proxy candidate of People’s Conference (PC). PC was formed by Lone in 1978.
Sajad is of the opinion that lot of water has flown down the river since the assassination of his father and the party (PC), which he is reviving is not the same which was headed by his late father. “There is a wrong impression that PC which I am reviving is the same as was of my father, the PC of my father has been torn by the time and the men who were part of late Lone’s PC are nowhere,” said Sajad, adding “now I have a party member who in 1977 attacked at my father with his pistol.” Sajad claims that Lone’s PC was limited to some pockets but he has spread it to length and breadth of North.
Sheikh had pitched Chaudhary Ramzan against Lone in 1981 before his death. Then Lone had to fight Ramzan who was selling Lion against Lion. In 1983 elections, Lone polled 17,565 votes against Ramzan’s 17,575 which clearly indicated the impact of both the Lions.
Lone apparently has his many political heirs, his two sons, Sajad and Bilal, daughter, Shabnum Gani and Rashid. Each and every one of them is claiming to take Lone’s political ideology forward. Shabnum lost the election battle in 2008 to NC’s Mir Saifullah in Kupwara.
Many say that Rashid, of all the four, has a distinction to have his own cadre now as he worked for his Langate people for all the five and a half years in and out of the legislature.
Lone’s another son Bilal Gani is still in the separatist camp. Lone was assassinated on May 21, 2002 as a known separatist leader so the leaders in the camp argue that it is Bilal who is the genuine political heir of Lone.
To many, Rashid has become the undisputed custodian of Lone’s legacy in the mainstream politics because of his activities. It has provoked late Lone’s legal heirs, Sajad and Bilal to the extent and they never lose any opportunity to oppose Rashid.
But for Sajad, there is no war of legacy sharing in PC. “When Rashid won the election I asked him not to support National Conference but he refused,” said Sajad. “I suggested him not be a spokesman of Kashmir cause and concentrate on his people in Langate,” he said.
Rashid however clarified while talking to Kashmir Life that he supported NC in 2009 LS polls after an agreement was made between the two. “They (NC) had promised me to work for the revocation of AFSPA and raise Kashmir issue, but they failed and I left them,” Rashid said.
Sajad added, “He [Rashid] had every capability to become Lone but he chose to be Bhim Singh.”
But Rashid said that he was never ever a member of Lone’s PC. “I had respect for Lone when he was alive and I respect him even now when he is not among us, but the fact is that till 2008 I was government employee and had nothing to do with politics,” Rashid clarified adding “It is a wrong conception that I was affiliated with PC.”
Rashid also said that when he contested 2008 elections, Sajad went against him. “But when I won he spread rumours that I used his vote bank,” Rashid said. Rashid alleged, “In fact Lone’s family members have become agents and they even lost whatever their father had earned for them,” adding “I have my own cadre because I worked for my people who vote and support me.”
Sajad claims that he is working for his party round the clock and it has proved fruitful for him. “In last five months I issued 26000 party I-cards among the members.”
Sajad further claims that there were no legacy issues in PC. “Bilal is not with me and he is working in his own way. Shabnum too, is not any hindrance, and I am busy reviving PC by my own ways and according to the needs of the time,” said Sajad.
To Rashid, Lone’s family destroyed his (Lone’s) legacy. “Sajad, Bilal and Shabnum are themselves responsible for the destruction of Lone’s legacy.”
Born in Dard Hare, in Kupwara district, Late Abdul Ghani Lone received a law degree from Aligarh Muslim University in 1957. He made his first entry into politics serving in the state assembly as a Congress candidate in 1967.
He was assassinated on May 21, 2002 while commemorating the twelfth death anniversary of late Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq.
A day after his assassination, his son Sajad Lone blamed both the government of India and Pakistan for the assassination.
Later, after twenty years of the assassination of Lone, Abdul Gani Bhat, a senior member of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, of which Bilal is also a member made the revelations that Lone was assassinated by “our own people”. Bhat made this revelation in January 2011 during a seminar organised by the JKLF.
Bhat, categorically said, that the security forces had played no role in the killings of separatist leaders like late Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone. “Lone sahib and Mirwaiz Farooq 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 said. However, Bhat did not divulge into details.