Hardline separatists' ideologue and Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Wednesday struck a note that could change the separatist movement's complexion in Kashmir.
"Our struggle has to be peaceful as a matter of policy, despite grave provocations, and Kashmiris do not wish break-up or decline of India," he said at a seminar titled 'United Nations resolutions and sacrifices of Kashmiris'.
"We are not bothered about people in Assam. Punjab etc. If India is progressing and growing, let it grow by leaps and bounds. We are not against its development," Geelani said.
His statements were a departure from the speeches he made in the early 1990s emphasising "jehad" and "defeat to India".
Geelani (82), said, "New Delhi wants armed struggle to re-emerge in Kashmir, but I stress upon the youth not to be emotional and to adopt peaceful demonstrations as their weapon. Even provocative slogans should be avoided during protests," he said.
Replying to a released militant commander's speech during the seminar seeking an explanation for the negation of violence by separatists, Geelani said: "This is a well thought out policy. It is not out of fear we have decided to resort to peaceful struggle."
He said he was not averse to a dialogue, but India had to end human rights abuses, release prisoners and accept Kashmir as a disputed territory.