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Lone’s assassination: Hurriyat Conference is the target

The assassination of senior Hurriyat conference leader and the Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir peoples conference Khawaja Abdul Ghani Lone during a public meeting here has come as the hardiest stroke against the 23 party separatist amalgam All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), seeking Kashmir’s separation from India. Mr. Lone is the first central executive leader of the conference who fell to the bullets of the assassins, after the umbrella organization was formed in 1993. Mr. Lone, who had a 50-year long political career to his credit, was an influential voice within and outside the Hurriyat. The amalgam leadership used to seek late Lone’s opinion on any important issue as a vital tool. The Hurriyat chairman Prof. Ghani rightly put it saying, "He (Lone) was the crown of the Hurriyat". Observers here believe that Lone’s assassination though a big shock to the Hurriyat will however set many things right in and outside the amalgam. 

During his mainstream politics, Lone had tasted a number of political parties before finally forming his own party Peoples Conference (PC). He had spent time in the congress, National Conference (NC), Janta party and other organizations of different shades and culture. During his mainstream days too, Lone was a strong advocate of restoring states eroded autonomy. Even the cause of his leaving the NC is said to be his sharp differences with late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the founder leader of NC. Despite his having spent enough time in the mainstream parties, Mr. Abdul Ghani Lone was the first leader to hug armed struggle when it erupted in the valley. Mr. Lone used to guide the pioneers of militancy when other leaders were busy in calculating the risks of endorsing the usage of gun. Lone never gave up his boldness which he had attained during his political career prior to 1989 by taking extreme and physical fronts against ‘ mighty’ late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and others. Mr. Lone was the first and perhaps only man who took a public front against the hanging to death of the founder of JKLF Mohammad Maqbool Bhat in 1984. It was Lone alone who gave a strike call against the death of Bhat and hold a public meeting with senior Jamat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Geelani at Sopore on the 4th day ceremony of Late Mohammad Maqbool Bhat. Lone’s boldness travelled along with him during the militancy period too. 

Abdul Ghani Lone was representing his party PC in the APHC. The PC is one of the constituent parties of the Hurriyat and enjoys membership in the central executive council, the Hurriyat’s highest decision-making body. The leadership of the PC has now decided to bring both the sons of late Lone to politics. The eldest son Bilal Ghani Lone will now represent the PC in the Hurriyat’s central executive council while the younger son Sajjad Ghani Lone has been elected chairman to head the political outfit formed by his late father. However Lone’s daughter Shabnam Ghani Lone, an advocate by profession is believed to have refused to enter politics saying she was fit in her own profession. 

Lone’s assassination once again brought Hurriyat leaders at one place chanting one voice. However a senior separatist leader Mohammad Azam Inqlabi has rightly pointed out that shaking hands was no sign on unity and instead, the Hurriyat leaders should join their hearts together. Just a few days prior to Mr. Lone’s assassination differences among the Hurriyat leaders had come to surface though not for the first time. Even a number of objections had risen over Mr. Lone and another Hurriyat leader Molvi Umar Farooq, attending a secret conference in the U.A.E. It was in this context that a senior Hurriyat conference leader was prevented from entering the house of slain leader to pay his tributes to Lone. The same leader had earlier not been invited to the Idgah public meeting, where Mr. Lone fell to the bullets of his assassins. It was day 2 of Mr. Lone's killing that the whole of the Hurriyat leadership had to come to the rescue of the leader to make his entry into Mr. Lone’s house possible. ‘The mourners at Lone’s residence were giving a clear cut message to all the Hurriyat leaders that ‘the blood of thousands of Lone's should be protected’, commented a political activist. Earlier the public meeting where Lone was shot dead was organized by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) to commemorate the death anniversary of its founder leader Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq. The Mirwaiz had been killed by unknown gunmen at his Nageen (Srinagar) residence on the same day in 1990. Though the AAC is also one of the constituents of the Hurriyat and its present chairman Molvi Umar Farooq is one of the founders of the APHC, however he had opted to manage the show as of AAC and not of APHC. Almost all the APHC leaders, including Mr. Lone, were invitees to the Idgah public meeting organized by AAC. Mr. Lone could not speak at the function due to short time. However 24 hours before this function Mr. Lone had addressed a seminar in a local hotel. Organized by the Hurriyat conference, the seminar was part of the week long ‘martyrdom week’ functions organized in the memory of late Mirwaiz. Mr. Lone while addressing the seminar had described as wild speculations the rumors that any of the Hurriyat conference leaders including him, was participating in the coming assembly elections. The slain leader had also hinted at some important issues during his speech making his position clear. "Some people have been talking about our amassing of wealth. I swear by Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) that we will very soon come before you with all the realities", he had told the gathering. Mr. Lone had also talked of change in the policies vis-à-vis the ongoing movement saying that Sep. 11 was a reality. He had also stressed for total unity among the movement leaders saying, "on the basis of my political experience, I tell you that a solution has to come from Srinagar only and not from New Delhi, Islamabad or New York". Thus Lone had thrown light on a number of important issues hours before his death, little knowing his fate was awaiting him. 

By losing Lone the Hurriyat conference has suffered irrecoverable loss. The Hurriyat Chairman prof. Ghani put it by saying that the assassin has fired bullets at Hurriyat conference, not at Lone. However the hands that killed the PC chief would hardly be identified. Like death of hundreds of other prominent personalities, the death of Mr. Lone has also been debited to the account on ‘unknown gunmen’. The unknowns have got a full-fledged identity during past 13 years of armed activities in Kashmir. These ‘unknown’ hands have claimed lives of many figures. However the government put blame of all such killings on the anti India militants. The government in the case of Mr. Lone’s killing has repeated the same thing. However the govt. is yet to identify the outfit, which it may do within coming days, as has been the official routine. Eyewitnesses say that the assassin who killed Lone with a close pistol fire, was in police uniform. When asked to reply clearly as to whom you suspect to be behind eliminating Mr. Lone, the Hurriyat conference chairman Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat shot back. "Who attacked and beat Mr. Lone at Jammu during press conference? Who attacked his residence several times? Who hurled grenades at his car in Doda recently? …". According to the Persian teacher turned politician people involved in these attacks were responsible for killing Mr. Lone. Mr. Lone was physically manhandled and beaten by Shiv sena leader Kalkaji Maharaj at Jammu last month when he (Lone) was addressing a press conference in a Jammu hotel. Mr. Lone had personally held the state chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah responsible fro the attack. "He (Shiv sena leader) is a non state subject and is a pet of Dr. Farooq Abdullah, who tried to kill me", Mr. Lone had said after the attack. In fact after about half a dozen bomb attacks at the residence of Mr. Lone, he had always blamed the government, its agencies and pro government surrendered militants for the acts.

Abdul Ghani Lone was killed at a stage when things were moving in a number of directions with regard to Kashmir. Mr. Lone was the first Hurriyat leader who was allowed by the central government to visit Pakistan. The slain leader had a two-hour impressive meeting with the Pakistan president Gen. Pervez Musharraf to discuss various aspects of Kashmir issue. Lone was recently in Dubai also to have negotiations with Pakistan’s Kashmir committee chairman Sardar Mohammad Abdul Qayoom Khan and others. He had straightway traveled to Washington for treatment. This was Mr. Lone’s second visit to the U.S during which he had extensive discussions with a number of personalities to explore possibilities of a lasting solution to Kashmir issue. Late Lone was in close contact with a number of members of U.S think tank also. Mr. Lone was killed on the day when the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had just landed at Jammu on his much-publicized three-day visit to troubled state. Mr. Vajpayee’s visit had attained much more importance in the wake of rising border tension between India and Pakistan as he was also expected to announce some ‘relief’ measures for the trouble hit state. Though the prime minister was among the first to speak against Lone’s assassination and also spoke to his son over telephone, he however refused to change his programme in Kashmir. Killing of Mr. Lone on the other hand surely pushed the Vajpayee trip to shadows and ultimately nothing came out of the visit. Peoples concern shown at the death of the senior Hurriyat leader again demonstrated that despite all odds, hitches and obstacles, their association with separatist circles was almost intact.

¯ Javed Matjee, Srinagar.

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