In what could mar any chances of separatists participating in the assembly and parliamentary polls next year, politico-religious group Jamaat-e-Islami has called for a poll boycott and appealed to its cadre and supporters to not vote in the elections.
"We have asked our cadre to stay away from polls," said Jamaat chief Muhammad Abdullah Wani. "We appeal to the people of Kashmir to boycott the elections as they did in the past."
The announcement has come weeks after hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani had announced a poll-boycott campaign, immediately after being released from a nine-month house detention.
A source said the Jamaat, of which Geelani is a member, has decided to toe the line of hardline Hurriyat.
The Jamaat chief downplayed the decision, saying: "It is the policy of the Jamaat to stay away from polls since 1987. We will adhere to this policy trhis as well." In the past, Jamaat contested polls in 1987.
However, this time, Jamaat, which has its cadre spread across the length and breadth of the valley, has decided not to launch any poll-boycott campaign.
The group reiterated India to initiate processes to resolve the Kashmir issue. "Jamaat wants that the UN resolutions should be implemented. However, if India does not do so, then it should include Kashmir leadership in the dialogue process," said Wani.
Throwing weight behind moderate Hurriyat chairman's approach, the Jamaat chief said he agreed with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is for resolving the Kashmir issue either through United Nations resolutions or triangular dialogue. This is a climbdown from the Jamaat's previous take on the issue.