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Why Hurriyat Refrained From Giving a Shutdown Call During Home Minister Amit Shah’s Maiden Visit to J&K

The decision to desist from issuing a shutdown call is likely to have come as the several separatist leaders in the state were reported to have been closer to opening a dialogue with the government.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:June 28, 2019, 1:24 PM IST
Why Hurriyat Refrained From Giving a Shutdown Call During Home Minister Amit Shah’s Maiden Visit to J&K
Home Minister Amit Shah flanked by Governor Satya Pal Malik and Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba in J&K.

Srinagar: On the evening of June 25, a day ahead of Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the editor of an English daily went through the front-page for the following day's edition. What he saw left him stunned. He called his subordinate and enquired why there was no statement issued by the Hurriyat (separatists).

Breaking years of tradition, separatists in the state had refrained from issuing a shutdown call on the day of Amit Shah’s visit.

It was for the first time ever, according to reports, since the inception of militancy in Kashmir valley that the separatist leaders have refrained from giving such a call.

Amit Shah’s visit to Srinagar on Wednesday didn’t see any troubles with even the traffic plying smoothly and the markets remaining busy with activity.

Shah was on a two-day visit, his first after taking oath as the Home Minister, and reviewed Amarnath Yatra arrangements, other security and developmental issues. Let alone a shutdown call, the separatists didn’t even react to Shah’s visit.

The Home Minister was flanked by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and several top officials from his office. He even visited Balgarden area of the city and offered his condolences to the family of slain police Inspector Arshad Khan, who was killed in a militant attack in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district along with five CRPF personnel on June 12.

But what happened behind the scenes?

Ahead of Shah’s visit, several reports were making the rounds in the valley about the possibility of dialogue between the government and the separatists. Actually, it was Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had urged India and Pakistan to open dialogue on the Kashmir issue. His words were later picked up by the Governor of the state, Satya Pal Malik.

Malik said that separatists in Kashmir are ready for talks. Mirwaiz again reacted to Malik’s statement saying that ‘dialogue’ is the only way to resolve the Kashmir problem.

Amit Shah’s schedule had made it clear that the primary focus of the visit will be the security of the Amarnath Yatra, though, political leaders kept their hopes alive expecting him to extend an olive branch.

On Tuesday, Sayed Ali Shah Geelani—the 92-year-old top separatist leader—was going to issue a statement on the reports of dialogue, sources in his office told News18.

But Shah, who was earlier scheduled to visit Kashmir on June 30 had preponed his visit to June 26 (Wednesday), thus Geelani had also asked to add the call for shutdown in the statement.

But before it could be typed by his media-relations team and translated to English, a few of Geelani’s close associates requested him to abstain from issuing shutdown call and the statement on the reports of dialogue, sources in his office said.

“If New Delhi is ready to offer a dialogue through Home Minister in Kashmir and we issue a shutdown call, the message will go that we are sabotaging the possible talks,” a person close to Geelani communicated to him as per sources in his office. “Let the ball be in their court.”

According to sources, three-four people echoed the same concern and requested Geelani to not issue any shutdown call.

Geelani, as per the sources, then directed his media-relations team to withhold the statement.

Home Minister Shah’s visit remained confined to his schedule—reviewing security arrangements of Amarnath Yatra and taking stock of other developmental and security issues.

After Shah left Kashmir on Thursday afternoon and flew to Dehradun, Geelani issued a statement appealing people for “peaceful protests after Friday prayers in all parts of the valley” over the plight of

Kashmiri prisoners in different jails of state and outside.

“One fails to understand, how world community affords to give a free hand to India, to snatch every right from the people, who have been made hostage to its egoistic and imperialistic oppression. The Indian democracy is so scared of pro-freedom leaders and activists and leaves no stone unturned to keep them behind bars on fictitious and false charges, propagated through their biased and hypertonic media houses,” Geelani said in the statement.

In Modi government’s first tenure, the separatists in the valley were dealt with a heavy hand. Many of the separatist leaders were arrested in different cases and are lodged in the state’s jails.

For many, abstaining from issuing the shutdown call on the visit of Union Home Minister depicted that the separatist camp is weakening. But if the sources in the Geelani’s office are to be believed, it was a chance for New-Delhi to engage them in a dialogue.

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