Hurriyat unity talks end in deadlock (Lead)

August 21st, 2008 - 12:41 am ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 20 (IANS) A meeting of the two estranged factions of Kashmir’s separatist Hurriyat Conference ended in a deadlock here late Wednesday evening. However, the separatist leaders were trying to precariously hold on to their unity, sources said.

Separatist leader Sajjad Gani Lone was also invited to Wednesday’s meeting, the first since the Hurriyat split in August 2003.

According to sources, separatist leaders had a heated argument over unity efforts during the meeting, at which a senior leader of the moderate faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was allegedly slapped.

Even the post-meeting media briefing was cancelled but sources said plans for a rally at the Eidgah grounds here Friday stand.

The differences between the two Hurriyat groups, which were attempting to re-unite, erupted during a massive rally here Monday.

Without naming him, hard line leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani castigated Mirwaiz Umer Farooq while celebrating former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s resignation.

Geelani told the gathering of thousands of people that Musharraf had honoured people of his choice in Kashmir, damaging the movement.

The Mirwaiz had many rounds of talks with Musharraf while Geelani had been his critic, saying he had bowed before India and had compromised on his Kashmir policy.

Geelani, during the Monday rally, also projected himself as “the leader” of Kashmir, inviting severe criticism from various constituents of the Hurriyat Conference.

The two factions have been at loggerheads but came together when the Kashmir Valley erupted into 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 the stir in the Valley that has snowballed into anti-India protests and re-ignited calls for Kashmir’s independence.

Violent protests last week claimed the lives of at least 22 Muslim demonstrators, including a senior separatist leader.

Earlier, in a significant development, the Mirwaiz group of the Hurriyat called back two of its members from the co-ordination committee formed recently to handle the unity moves between the Hurriyat groups and to announce joint programmes.

After a three-hour long meeting of its executive committee, the moderate Hurriyat group decided to recall Shabir Ahmad Shah and Nayeem Khan from the committee, sources said.

Shah, the chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party, is a senior executive member of the Mirwaiz’s group. Khan, the chairman of the National Front, is also a senior Hurriyat leader of the Mirwaiz group.

Khan is also the provincial president of the moderate Hurriyat.

“We were told that we have not succeeded in properly handling the co-ordination between the two Hurriyat groups,” Khan told IANS while commenting on his recall.

Gulam Muhammad Hubbi and Gulam Muhammad Bhat of the Mirwaiz group will now represent it in the committee.

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