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Abdul Ghani Lone
|All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leader Abdul Ghani Lone was shot dead by unidentified uniformed men during a public meeting in Srinagar on 21 May evening. The incident took place at the Idgah area in Srinagar where a big public meeting of the Hurriyat was being held.
Lone Saheb was buried next day in the Martyrs cemetry in Srinagar in the presence of at least 50,000 mourners. An estimated 5000-strong crowd walked the 12 kms route from his house to the graveyard. The Valley observed a general strike on 23 May in protest against his killing.
Reportedly there were two assailants in police uniforms. They targeted Lone specifically as other APHC leaders present at the site were not hurt. One of Lone's bodyguards was also killed in the attack while another one was injured. The attackers also lobbed a grenade which failed to explode. At least six others were also injured in the attack.
Seventy-year-old Abdul Ghani Lone was rushed to the Soura Medical Institute in Srinagar where he was declared "brought dead".
Abdul Ghani Lone was seen as the top moderate face of the APHC who was closely interacting with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and supported the forthcoming assembly elections in the state. He supported the resolution of the Kashmir issue politically and was keen that the central government in New Delhi works towards a permanent solution that kept in mind the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
His dastardly killing has been interpreted as militants' message to the Indian government, and a warning to "moderate" leaders in the APHC which is the conglomerate of 23 Kashmiri secessionist organisations. His assassination may also be the handiwork of some pro-Indian group in Kashmir, like the ruling National Conference, which feels threatened by the moderate faces of APHC who could be coopted by New Delhi at the expense of the pro-Indian groups which enjoy little popular support among the Kashmiris but have benefited immensely due to the Indian patronage.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then in Jammu on the first leg of his recent Kashmir visit, offered his condolences to the family of the slain leader.
Bilal Lone son of the slain APHC leader, was speechless when he heard of his father's death."He was a great man, a great father. He should not have died like this," said a shocked Bilal who was visiting New Delhi at the time.
Abdul Ghani Lone's adversaries accused him of acting in contravention of APHC's constitution and its established position on the Kashmir issue. They alleged that Lone had been hobnobbing with New Delhi and had "agreed to a solution to the Kashmir issue within the Indian Constitution".
The slain leader's son, Sajjad Lone has blamed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for his father's assassination, saying that he reduced the security of the Hurriyat leader despite the clear threat to his life. "He died in the convergence between state actors and non-state actors," accused Sajjad. Farooq Abdullah has, however, ridiculed the charges.
The APHC, on the other hand, said the assassination of its leader Abdul Ghani Lone was a "deep conspiracy" aimed at scuttling "saner voice" of Kashmiri people and its leadership. APHC spokesman Abdul Majid Bandey said the incident would have "far-reaching impact on the political scenario of Jammu and Kashmir."
Stating that Lone's outspokenness had earned him several enemies, Banday said: "It is a deep conspiracy against the people of Kashmir and their movement.
Bandey alleged that adequate security had not been provided to him even though there had been several attacks on his life during the last two years. "It is not for the first time that Lone was attacked. There have been several attempts on his life. But this time the enemy succeeded and he has become a martyr," he said.
Abdul Ghani Lone was one of the "moderate" leaders of the party and is said to have had strong differences with the pro-Pakistan hardliners who were against elections in the Valley. Earlier in 1996, there was a car bomb attack. This year also his residence was attacked twice but he escaped.
Curfew was clamped this morning on Handwara, home town of Abdul Ghani Lone. Officials said that precautionary curfew has been imposed on the entire town following tension after Lone's death. But residents of the area said that they were not being allowed to leave their houses. Police had to fire several rounds into the air after a group of people pelted stones on Bulgam police post in Baramulla last night after the news about the death of Lone reached there.
The APHC today demanded a judicial probe into the killing of its senior leader and asked for security for the slain leader's family members. A resolution passed at an emergency meeting of Hurriyat executive in Srinagar said Lone's death was a tragedy for the 23-party amalgam of secessionist organisations and the people of Kashmir. His death created a vacuum that would be difficult to fill, the resolution said. It demanded a judicial probe into the killing and also protection for Lone's family members in view of perceived threat to them.
The resolution praised Lone for his courage in raising the voice of the people of Kashmir at various fora. It said Lone served and represented the people throughout his political career.