Dropping a bombshell, the country's well-known legal luminary, historian and columnist AG Noorani on Wednesday questioned the veracity of the 2008 polls and alleged that it was rigged by security agencies in Srinagar.
"Security agencies played a role in the 2008 polls in Srinagar," said Noorani, who was in the Valley to release his book 'Kashmir dispute - 1947-2012' on the 25th anniversary on Kashmir's largest selling daily Greater Kashmir, headed by editor Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo.
He left several MLAs and ministers of the ruling National Conference in the audience red faced, including senior ministers like Ali Muhammad Sagar, Abdul Rahim Rather and Mian Altaf.
"We will seek details from Noorani sahib. It can be misinformation. The polls were not rigged," state finance minister Rather told the Hindustan Times. Forest minister Mian Altaf refused to comment on it saying "I have contested and won polls from Kangan", which is in Ganderbal constituency. The NC bagged eight assembly seats from Srinagar in the polls.
However, opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) seconded Noorani in the allegations. "We have from day one said that polls were rigged in Srinagar in favour of the NC. Noorani sahib, who is an authority and historian, has reiterated these dirty secrets of Kashmir polls," said PDP MLC Naeem Akhtar.
Noorani, who has extensively written on Kashmir in his books and columns, said he was not for the secession of Jammu and Kashmir "but do not oppose those who ask for it as they have very right to demand what they believe in". "Don't ask for pie in the sky, ask realistically. Kashmiris have a divided voice," said Noorani.
Backing former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf's four-point formula, Noorani said, "Future of Kashmir is yet to be determined. Provide your shoulder to the wheel and suggest changes and seek guarantees (in the four-point formula)," said Noorani.
Asking people to fight for right to peaceful protests, Noorani said Kashmiris should not rely on the US or British intervention. "They will work in favour of India," said Noorani.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who was part of the all-party delegation that flew down to Kashmir during the peak of the 2010 agitation, said: "The fears of youngsters expressed then came true now. Nobody talks about Kashmir when it is peaceful. I think both India and Pakistan should start serious dialogue over the issue," said Owaisi, who heads the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen.
The Muslim MP also expressed his resentment over New Delhi's decision "to put interlocutors report in a cold storage". "Nothing has come out of the interlocutors. We don't know why their suggestion were rejected and what happened to the report," said Owaisi, while referring to the three member group of interlocutors headed by Dilip Padgoankar formed in the backdrop the 2010 street agitation, which left 113 dead.