The political career of influential separatist-turned-mainstream leader Sajjad Lone, who heads the People's Conference (PC), came full circle on Sunday when he took oath by the Indian constitution to upheld Jammu and Kashmir’s integrity.
Lone, 47, was once a firebrand separatist and has remained a very active member of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat.
Son of founder member of Hurriyat Conference leader, Abdul Ghani Lone, who was assassinated in 2002, he is married to separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder member Amanullah Khan. In fact, Lone’s Pakistani wife campaigned for him in north Kashmir’s Handwara and Kupwara constituencies, considered to be the bastion of the PC.
Lone used to propagate ‘Achievable Nationhood’, where Jammu and Kashmir is a single economic entity with separate sovereignty linkages with India and Pakistan. However, he changed tacks after the assassination of his father — he blames Pakistan’s ISI for the killing.
Lone, who on Sunday became first influential separatist to take oath on BJP ministerial berth, shot to limelight in 2014 when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to boost his electoral gains in the state.
His detractors have said it remains to be seen if his induction into the J&K cabinet will influence other separatist leaders to join mainstream politics to end the Kashmir problem. But they do agree on one thing — by switching sides, he has started a fresh debate on the politics of the Valley.