Geelani calls for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, triggers leadership clash (Overall Lead)

August 18th, 2008 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 18 (IANS) Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani Monday demanded the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, as leaders of the moderate Hurriyat faction spoke about independence and a dialogue over the state, triggering a leadership and ideological clash in the Muslim-dominated valley. Tens of thousands of Muslim Kashmiris marched towards a United Nations office here amid heavy security arrangements, demanding UN intervention to solve the more than 60-year-old Kashmir dispute.

Demonstrators shouting “We Want Freedom”, “Aiy zaalimo, aiy kaafiro, Kashmir hamara chhod do” (Tyrants and oppressors, leave our Kashmir), as they marched past police barricades near the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) office in the summer capital Srinagar.

Addressing the mammoth gathering at the Tourist Reception Centre here, octogenarian Geelani said there was “no solution to the Kashmir issue other than merger with Pakistan”.

“We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is us because we are tied with the country through Islam,” he roared, as the crowd cheered and chanted along with him: “Hum Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai” (We are Pakistanis, Pakistan is ours).

Much to the “ugly surprise” of the moderate Hurriyat leaders, who were sharing the stage with him, Geelani said the leadership issue of the Kashmiri separatist movement was “solved today”.

“Do you have faith in my leadership? I will be faithful to you till my death and will carry everyone along,” he said, as the crowd applauded him shouting in unison “zaroor” (certainly).

Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in his speech earlier called for a trilateral dialogue over Jammu and Kashmir, whose ownership is disputed by India and Pakistan who claim the region in full but rule in parts.

“We ask India to start a dialogue over Kashmir, open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road for trade and release all Kashmiris in Indian jails,” he said. Muzaffarabad is the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Pro-independence leader Yasin Malik said that Kashmiris want “complete freedom” - implying from both India and Pakistan.

“Is paar bhi lenge azadi, us paar bhi lenge azadi” (we will free both Kashmirs) was Malik’s slogan, as the crowd also cheered him.

However, Geelani countered their remarks saying all these issues would be solved once Kashmiris get their right to self-determination and merge with Pakistan.

The two factions of the Hurriyat Conference had been at loggerheads but got united when the Kashmir Valley saw protests against the transfer of government land to the Amarnath shrine management two months ago.

The state government cancelled the order - provoking protests in Jammu region and triggering an unprecedented communal divide in the state. The Jammu agitation revived protests in the Valley that have snowballed into anti-India protests reigniting calls for Kashmir’s independence.

Violent protests last week killed at least 22 Muslim demonstrators, including a senior separatist leader.

UNMOGIP is one of the oldest UN missions and monitors a 1949 ceasefire line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Hurriyat supporters travelled in cars, buses, and on motorcycles carrying green flags, as police and paramilitary troopers, asked to exercise maximum restraint, looked on.

Geelani’s leadership claim and pro-Pakistan slogans have led to a bickering between the two factions of the Hurriyat that were joining hands after the separatist conglomerate broke up in August 2003.

A moderate Hurriyat leader said it was Geelani’s dream to emerge as the “king of Kashmir”.

“But if you cannot carry the load of sanity, you have no right to live not to talk of leading people,” said the separatist leader, speaking on condition of anonymity given the “precarious” situation in the separatist camp.

“One who seeks leadership, don’t make him a leader,” the separatist leader quoted a saying of the Prophet to challenge Geelani’s claim.

“About Geelani’s claim and today’s rally and sloganeering, I have kept my lips sealed. I am not going to speak to anybody about it,” Abdul Gani Bhat, former chairman and spokesman of the moderate Hurriyat, told IANS.

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