The attack on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at a seminar in Chandigarh is third recent attack on a Kashmiri separatist outside Valley. Observers say the attacks are planned to prevent Kashmiri leaders from taking their voice to Indian mainland. Ilham Hassan reports.

On November 25 afternoon, volatile parts of old Srinagar witnessed street protests and incidents of stone-pelting. The provocation for the unrest was an attempted assault on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, at Chandigarh. Dozens of youngsters came out on streets and engaged with police and paramilitaries while chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.

Mirwaiz left the Valley along-with his associate and People’s Conference leader Bilal Ghani Lone on November 24 on a prolonged trip to interact with Indian civil society and foreign diplomats in New Delhi to “educate” them on the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Chandigarh was the first leg of his tour followed by attending a seminar in Kolkata and few appointments with diplomats of western and Muslim countries in New Delhi.

Reports said that the disruption occurred at Chandigarh seminar when Mirwaiz remarked that Jammu & Kashmir was an entity separate from the Indian Union. The subsequent commotion saw many from the audience swooping down on him and punching him.

The attackers were identified as a group of Kashmiri Pandits. The attacker who allegedly slapped Mirwaiz was identified as Amit Rana. At least a couple of protestors, standing among the audience at the seminar, jumped on the conference table where the Mirwaiz had just begun his speech and snatched his microphone while allegedly slapping him.

This is third attack on Kashmiri separatist leaders in more than a month’s time outside the Kashmir Valley. On November 4, Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Ahmed Shah was attacked in Jammu during a press conference shortly after being released from Kotbalwal Jail. Members of the youth wing of Bhartiya Janata Party were responsible for the attack.

On October 21 in New Delhi, a shoe was thrown at hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani during a seminar. Though the shoe missed Geelani, the seminar created controversy for his speech favouring secession of Kashmir besides author-activist Arundhati Roy’s remark that Kashmir needs azaadi from bhooka nange Hindustan. BJP, the main opposition party in India demanded trial of the two speakers on sedition charges. A Delhi court has admitted an application against the speakers and is likely to decide whether an FIR should be filed against them.

The attack on Mirwaiz evoked widespread condemnation. The separatist leaders, cutting across party lines deplored the incident. Geelani termed it as an act of cowardice and declared that the separatist leaders won’t be cowed down by such acts. “This is the handiwork of a handful of miscreants. The majority of Indian population does not support such acts,” Geelani said. He said that despite the attacks, the separatist leadership would continue its efforts to educate Indian people on the situation in Kashmir.

The JKLF leader Yasin Malik said that a group of “weeping boys” has been created by (intelligence) agencies to heckle separatist leaders whenever they attempt to educate Indian population on the situation of Kashmir. “They are doing no good to Indian democracy and the cause of migrant Pandit community,” Malik said.

Chief Minister Omer Abdullah reminded the separatist leaders that this (the attack) was the reaction to their “policies and politics”. He, however, was quick to say that he did not condone such attacks. Interestingly, Chief Minister had unequivocally condemned the attack on Geelani in New Delhi.

Observers say that Chief Minister’s different reaction to attack on Mirwaiz was actually a quid pro quo to Mirwaiz’s rebuff to him a few days ago. Chief Minister recently said that his government has evidence that Kashmiri separatists were in league with Naxalites of the mainland India. Mirwaiz ridiculed the statement saying that he would not be surprised if the Chief Minister links the people involved in recent Kashmir uprising with al-Qaeda.
A senior separatist leader told Kashmir Life that attacks on separatist leaders are carried out under a definite and well-thought-over plan. “Their aim is to create fear-psychosis among the separatist leaders so that they do not dare to venture out of Kashmir to voice genuine demands and educate people on actual situation in Kashmir”, he said.

He said that similar attacks have been carried out on late Abdul Ghani Lone and Yasin Malik in Jammu and New Delhi.
“The civil society in India understands the plight of Kashmiri people. Attacks on pro-freedom leadership further highlights the situation,” he said.

He said that Kashmiris are liberal in their conduct. “There has never been an attack on any Indian politician in Kashmir. Even the BJP and the VHP leaders address press conferences in Kashmir and speak against Kashmiris. But they have never been cowardly attacked”, he remarked.


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