Geelani calls off Kashmir agitation during Ramadan

September 4th, 2008 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Sep 4 (IANS) Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani Thursday called off pro-freedom agitation during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but asked the people to continue with “peaceful protests”. Addressing a media conference at his uptown Hyderpora residence here, chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference Geelani said major separatist programmes would only be announced after the month of fasting.

This was his first media appearance after his release on the eve of Ramadan Monday from a nine-day long detention.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat faction, and Yaseen Malik, chief of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, were also released on the same day.

Geelani and the Mirwaiz were arrested Aug 24 amid violent protests against the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board and in support of Kashmir’s independence. Malik was arrested the next day.

The authorities had arrested the three to prevent their participation in a march called by the separatists to the Srinagar city centre Lal Chowk Aug 25. Eventually, the march never took place. Both the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley in the state witnessed communally polarised protests and counter protests over the Amarnath land row. Relative peace has returned to the regions in recent days.

Avoiding a direct confrontation with Mirwaiz, whose group Wednesday asked people to hold protests after Friday prayers and observe a total shutdown Saturday, Geelani said the decision was taken without his knowledge.

“Although I have no knowledge about the decisions taken by the (Hurriyat) coordination committee, but in the larger interest of the people’s struggle I have decided to support the programme,” he said.

“We shall announce our major resistance programmes after the holy month of Ramadan and till then peaceful protests will continue,” the hardliner said.

His right hand man Masarat Alam, who is spokesman of the Hurriyat coordination committee, has as well denied of having announced any programme Wednesday.

“Which meeting, which programme? We didn’t announce anything,” Alam told reporters.

Geelani refused to accept the land row solution arrived at between the government and the Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti (SASS), a conglomerate of Hindu groups spearheading the agitation in Jammu for the return of forest land in the Kashmir Valley to a temple trust.

“I reject the agreement signed by the government and the Sangarsh Samiti with regard to the forest land in Baltal (of the valley),” the hawkish leader said.

“I also condemn the arrests of many separatist leaders and activists who have been detained under the draconian Public safety Act (PSA).”

“Release all these detained leaders and activists during the month of Ramadan,” he demanded.

But he thanked the government officials, including the police officers, who had come into contact with him during his detention.

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