Kashmir’s hour of destiny has come: separatist leader

August 17th, 2008 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, Aug 17 (IANS) The Indian government’s talk of normalcy, of building roads, bridges and developing tourism in Jammu and Kashmir has proved to be a “mirage”, claims a separatist leader, insisting that the “hour of destiny” for Kashmiris has come. “Please try and understand that the people are now in no mood to give up their right to self-determination,” Nayeem Khan, chairman of the separatist National Front and also the provincial president of the moderate Hurriyat group, told IANS Sunday.

“But we are against violence of any kind. We condemn violence against anybody and everybody,” stressed Khan, who is also a member of the joint co-ordination committee set up by the two Hurriyat groups.

“You should have seen the mood of the people in Pampore (during Saturday’s massive rally to pay tributes to slain Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz). You should have seen the attitude of the people at Baramulla when one of our senior most leaders, Shabir Ahmad Shah, who led the ‘Muzaffarabad Chalao’ march, tried to control and pacify the marchers,” Khan said.

He agreed that the present separatist struggle was becoming too hot even for the separatist leaders to handle.

“Our people have died in dozens during the last six days. Hundreds have been injured. What do we tell the people? Do we tell them go home and lick their wounds?

“No, that is not possible now. Delhi spoke of normalcy, tourism, development, bridges, roads and tulip gardens. Now when all that has been proved to be a mirage, you are looking at us to cool down.

“The present movement would only be contained if the government of India, without wasting any further time, opens up the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trade route, repeals the draconian special powers act giving sweeping powers to its security forces and also begins the gradual withdrawal of its troops from the hinterland.

“That to me appears the only possible means to cool down the tempers at the moment,” Khan said.

While he agreed that shutdowns and protests had caused a lot of inconvenience to the common man, he claimed that the present situation had come about with the total participation of everybody in the Valley.

“Do you think the youth who are highly surcharged at the moment are not educated enough to understand the economic fallout of what they are doing? Do you believe that thousands of people are coming out of their homes to agitate and protest for their democratic rights without understanding the larger implications of what they are doing?

“The masses fully understand what they are doing and how volatile the situation is. But, having said that, it is the responsibility of the Indian government to understand that after 18 long years the propaganda that the situation has returned to normalcy has not helped anyone of us,” Khan said.

Asked if he and other separatist leaders thought the people here endorsed secession from India, Khan said: “That is what we have been asking India and Pakistan to determine. Hold a referendum and you would know the results,” he said.

Asked whether he understood that the economic sustenance of the Valley would not be possible outside India, Khan said: “That should be the worry of the people. Why are you worried on that count? It is our problem how Kashmir survives economically after independence, or after merger with Pakistan.

“Allow us to determine our political future and then we will address our economic worries,” he said.

His voice was hoarse obviously because he had done a lot of slogan shouting during Saturday’s rally at the south Kashmir Pampore town.

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