The moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has reversed its stand on boycotting elections in Kashmir under pressure from militant groups.
The faction has now joined the separatists’ call for a boycott of the Lok Sabha polls in the Valley. It had earlier refrained from doing so, saying the elections were a “non-issue”.
The Mirwaiz was under tremendous pressure from several militant groups and his amalgam constituents to reconsider his earlier decision on the poll boycott call. The Mirwaiz told mediapersons at his residence in Srinagar on Thursday, “We appeal to the people to stay away from polling.”
Justifying the change in his faction’s stand, he said elections have no relevance in Kashmir in the present context. “Unless the disputed status of Kashmir is addressed, elections are a meaningless exercise,” he said. He also said that the presence of “seven lakh forces make this (elections) a bigger sham”.
The Mirwaiz faction had come under flak from separatist sections for its silence on the latter’s call for a poll boycott.
The faction’s non-committal stand had found the United Jihad Council (UJC), a platform of over a dozen militant groups, castigating it for describing elections as a non-issue. “Those who claim that elections have nothing to do with the freedom movement are deceiving the people,” UJC had said.
Molvi Abbas Ansari, who was acting chairman of the amalgam when the Mirwaiz was in Delhi recently, hit back at militants, saying, “We do not recognise the UJC. They are carrying swords. We do not accept diktats.”
Ansari had also defended Peoples’ Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone’s decision to contest the elections. He pointed out that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah too had contested elections after heading the Plebiscite Front. The Mirwaiz, lashing out at Sajjad Lone, said, “Those contesting elections are working against the freedom movement.”
In tune with his changed stand, the Mirwaiz said it was because of “their (militants’) sacrifices that the Kashmir issue has come out of cold storage and become the focus of international attention.”