Separatists disown voter-bashing in Baramulla

Geelani says ‘agencies’ avenging boycott; Mirwaiz, Malik appeal for calm   

SRINAGAR: The stalking of commuters and beating those with voting marks has evoked sharp reactions from Kashmir’s political actors of almost all hues. Several vigilante groups, with unknown affiliations, on Thursday took to roads in Baramulla and stalked passenger vehicles coming from Kupwara and Handwara, the town where voting percentage was higher than other place in North Kashmir. They checked the index fingers of commuters and thrashed everyone who bore a voting mark. On Friday, reports said people from Sopore who own businesses in Kupwara faced hostility from locals, pointing to brewing tensions in the region.

The situation, which seemed set to spiral into a sort of inter-district clash, prompted appeals and condemnations from the separatist as well as the ruling mainstream parties.

Chairman of Hurriyat G Syed Ali Geelani has expressed anguish over the emergence of vigilante groups who beat several commuters after checking voting marks on their marks, fearing such acts may spark civil war in Kashmir. In a made-for-press video message, Geelani said, “Muslims of Kashmir are brothers in faith. Whoever voted or boycotted is now a past issue. Let this not vitiate the atmosphere of brotherhood here. I compassionately appeal the youth not to indulge in such acts which may lead to civil war and ultimately harm our movement.”

Later in the evening,  a lengthy handout from Hurriyat G quoted Geelani saying that the failure of authorities to enforce polling was now being compensated by pitting Kashmiris against each other. According to the statement, “The failure in forcing the people to vote in the recent elections despite military excesses and every possible tool of repression, has frustrated India and her agencies. The India and its secret agencies are trying their best to engage the people of Kashmir in fighting with each other in the name of parties, cast and region.” Geelani appealed the youth to thwart such attempts. “Our youth should follow our guidelines and shun the differences with each other. We should not force anybody to follow our policy or ideology, but we should fulfill our responsibility and aware the innocent people about our sacred cause and sacrifices who are used and deceived by the pro-Indian parties.”

 However, Geelani termed the beating and striping of voters as the reaction of youth to the voting percentage in Handwara and Kupwara. “The people of Kupwara and Handwara have not only harmed the sacred cause of the nation but they have also betrayed the precious sacrifices of the whole nation especially the sacrifices offered by people across North Kashmir,” Geelani said in the statement that described the voting in Kashmir as a condemnable act. He asserted that the pro-freedom youth should not force anybody to follow “our policy or ideology, but we should fulfill our responsibility and aware the innocent people about our sacred cause and sacrifices.”

A statement from Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front quoted the party Chairman Yasin Malik, who is still in detention, calling for restraint while dealing with issues such as elections. Malik has said while the people should celebrate the success of the boycott movment,”we all must bear in mind that we will have to keep vigil and safeguard our unity and brotherhood and defeat the nefarious conspiracies of those who want to divide us for their own benefits and interests.”  Yasin Malik, according to the statement, has appealed  all honorable people to join hands and eradicate the atmosphere of confusion and mutual tensions as it was necessary for the sacred cause of martyrs.

Chairman of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in his cautious reaction has asked the youth to restrain their emotions “at this crucial juncture of the movement.” According to a statement, Mriwaiz Umar has warned people against the divisive forces who want to fragment Kashmiri society along ethnic line.

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