iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times
Srinagar, March 12, 2013
It was a chance meeting that snowballed into a controversy. That was how moderate separatist leader and former militant Yasin Malik described sharing stage last month with Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.

When Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged, Malik, who was in Pakistan on a private visit, had organised a protest in Islamabad. At the protest, he had shared dais with Saeed.

It raised a storm in India. While the BJP demanded his passport be impounded, others called for stricter measures.

But Malik, who had consistently denied inviting Saeed, said, "I was sitting on road and thousands of people came to meet me, so did Saeed."

Questioning the basis of controversy, Malik said, "Saeed was on the wanted list sent to Pakistan by the BJP government in 2001. But when I went to Pakistan on a peace mission in 2006 after meeting the prime minister in Delhi, and shared stage with Saeed for four hours, nobody raised a finger."

"Why is it that Delhi makes noise only when things don't suit it? Hafiz Saeed was as much a criminal for India as he is now,'' added Malik, who has been put under house arrest since his return from Pakistan on Sunday.

The chairman of JKLF had a word of warning too.

"We picked up guns when we were getting politically choked in the 1980s. Today the same thing is happening," Malik said.

"We had worked hard for the transition from gun to street protests, but the way the youth are being treated, they might switch to arms again," he said.