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Geelani unhappy with Hurriyat's soft stance towards Centre

By Onkar Singh in Srinagar
August 27, 2003 17:30 IST
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Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leader who recently parted company with the separatist All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, criticised the separatist conglomerate's 'soft' attitude towards the Vajpayee government.

"Ever since Maulavi Abbas Ansari was elected APHC chairman, he has been talking of ceasefire," Geelani said. "He is even prepared to hold talks with the government of India. Who has authorised him to hold talks?"

Both Geelani and the APHC had called for a bandh on Wednesday to protest against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Srinagar for the two-day Inter-State Council Meet. As a result, shops and business establishments in Srinagar and surrounding areas remained closed in the morning.

Geelani accused the Indian government of hounding him on petty issues. Non-bailable warrants were issued by a Jammu court for an incident in 1987, he said, in which someone had burnt the Indian tricolour while he was addressing the public in Jammu region.

"I had nothing to do with the (flag burning) incident," Geelani said, "but they booked me for showing disrespect to the tricolour."

Asked whether he regretted walking out of the APHC, he said, "Hurriyat is not the end of the world. Aur bhi jahan hain Hurriyat ke bahar [There are several worlds outside the Hurriyat]."

"When it was decided we would not take part in the election," Geelani said, "the Hurriyat leadership failed to take action against Sajjad Lone and his brother (of the Peoples Conference) who allowed their followers to contest as independent candidates. If they cannot enforce discipline then we have to part company."

Speaking about Lone's allegation that Geelani had engineered the killing of his father Abdul Gani Lone, the separatist said, "He is a child and a child can make any kind of allegation. I do not take cognisance to such allegations. Lone was like a brother to me and people do not get their own brothers killed."

More reports from Jammu and Kashmir

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Onkar Singh in Srinagar