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Not Against Idea of Elections in J&K, Says Mirwaiz, But its Linkage With Resolution of Kashmir Issue

Mirwaiz said that this time around the Hurriyat hasn’t issued a boycott call against the election, as it did in the past, because of “serious alterations in the ground situation” following the reading down of Article 370.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq being ushered into Jamia Masjid on Friday, September 22, 2023, by his aides. Photo: Jehangir Ali.

New Delhi: In his first remarks on the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that the Hurriyat was “not against the idea of elections” in Jammu and Kashmir but linking it to the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Mirwaiz, who is also the chief cleric of Kashmir, said that this time around the Hurriyat hasn’t issued a boycott call against the election, as it did in the past, because of “serious alterations in the ground situation” following the reading down of Article 370 by the BJP-led Union government in 2019.

“Under these changed circumstances, issuing a boycott call, unlike before 2019, does not seem to carry the sense and effect that it did before. Besides, the people of J&K, baptised by fire from decades old conflict, have gained enough political maturity and wisdom to know what best to do in the current situation,” he said.

The moderate Hurriyat leader, who was again put under house arrest on Friday, May 3, and prevented from delivering the sermon at the historic Jamia Masjid, made these remarks in an interview with Reuters.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

Anjuman Auqaf Jama Masjid, the managing body of the shrine in downtown Srinagar’s Nowhatta locality, said in a statement that Mirwaiz was placed under house arrest on Friday morning. An aide of Mirwaiz’s said that additional forces were deployed outside his Nigeen residence in Srinagar.

“Anjum expressed deep dismay at the repeated house detention of Mirwaiz especially on the important occasion of Friday, when thousands of people from the valley are gathered at the historic Jama Masjid Srinagar to listen to his enlightening Friday sermon,” the statement said.

Responding to a question on the ongoing Lok Sabha election, Mirwaiz said that many constituents of the Hurriyat, including the banned Jamaat-e-Islami and Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference, participated in elections in Jammu and Kashmir before the armed insurgency broke out in the early 1990s.

“The Hurriyat was formed in 1993 .. (as) a political initiative, by political forces who believed in and supported a political resolution of this long standing issue on the democratic principle of respect for the aspirations and will of the people of J&K with regard to the conflict by both India and Pakistan,” he said.

Mirwaiz continued: “Our reservation was or is not to the idea of elections per se, but linking it to being a means of asserting people’s will in the context of the Kashmir conflict,” he said, adding that India and Pakistan “took the Kashmir issue to international fora”.

“The two neighbours have … fought three-and-a-half wars, signed bilateral agreements and yet the final settlement (of Kashmir) has eluded,” he said, adding that the reading down of Article 370 has “disempowered the people” of Jammu and Kashmir by making “drastic unilateral changes that (have) complicated the dynamics of the larger issue (of Kashmir).”

The Hurriyat was born in 1991 out of the political and security turmoil that broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the rigging of the 1987 assembly election and the assassination of Mirwaiz’s father, Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, on May 21, 1990. Over the last more than three decades, it has suffered at least two splits and several defections.

As the Centre moved to read down Article 370 in 2019 which downgraded the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, several constituent member parties of the Hurriyat Conference such as Jamaat-e-Islami, Peoples League and Jammu Kashmir National Front were banned under anti-terror laws.

The ongoing Lok Sabha election is the first major democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir post Article 370 with Udhampur and Jammu constituencies exercising their franchise in the first two phases on April 9 and April 26 respectively. The remaining three seats, which are mostly in the Kashmir Valley, will go to polls on May 13, May 20 and May 25.

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