I was impelled by Kashmiris’ desire for progress: Sajad Lone

April 11th, 2009 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, April 11 (IANS) Sajad Lone, the separatist leader in Jammu and Kashmir who has decided to jump into the electoral fray, says his decision to contest the Lok Sabha elections was “not an easy” one, but he was impelled by the Kashmiri peoples’ “desire for progress”.

Sajad Lone has been the chairman of the Peoples’ Conference since his father Abdul Ghani Lone was shot dead in 2002 by militants. Now Sajad is the first separatist leader of his stature to embrace the democratic process since the outbreak of militancy over two decades ago.

“The decision was not an easy one to arrive at. But I then keenly analysed the ground realities, the desire of the people for progress,” Lone told IANS after he declared his decision to contest from north Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency.

“Kashmiris have signalled that they desire progress and expect the leadership to give up any delusions of grandeur, the peddling of failed methods or escapism, and most of all, to avoid tendencies towards defeatism,” Lone said.

“We must admit that we (separatists) have failed to translate the sustained defiance of the Kashmiri people into deliverance,” he said.

The separatist leadership in Kashmir had failed in its 20-year-old strategy of staying away from the democratic process, he acknowledged.

“The separatist leadership is out of sync with the needs of the present moment. The people now expect a dynamic reformulation of our strategy rooted in today’s realities, challenges and opportunities.”

The decision to contest the polls is with “a commitment to represent the Kashmiris and take the strength and merits of our aspirations to the central stage of India”.

“I am trying to reorient our struggle and bring it in tune with the existing realities.”

Commenting on Lone’s decision to fight the elections, Maqbool Qadri, a political science teacher here, told IANS: “Lone’s differences with Hurriyat leaders, from Syed Ali Shah Geelani to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, are well known. His decision is bound to create ripples among the separatist leaders for whom he was already an eyesore because of his moderate image.”

But Lone is unfazed. “I care little for the opinions of my detractors or the cynics who cast aspersions on my intentions.”

“I know the risks involved. But my people will understand the sincerity of my intentions,” he said.

“I stress that the move to fight the parliamentary elections of India is an opportunity to put forward to the public and political leadership in India that Kashmiris seek a resolution to the dispute.”

“For 20 years, we protested to prove that the (Kashmiri) cause is the voice of the people. We have filled Kashmir’s graveyards with the remains of our loved ones; we have packed the prisons of India. After decades of struggle, we still hear the tired excuse that this cause is without peoples’ support and its advocates are irrelevant,” he said.

“I am making an attempt to engage and push for a real process of negotiation,” Lone said.

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