Srinagar: In a development that has caused a flutter in Jammu and Kashmir, independent MLA from the border area of Langate in Kupwara, Engineer Rashid, has offered to join the Hurriyat Conference. The two time MLA was working as an engineer in Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) and was accused of being the spokesman of the militant outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), before he joined mainstream politics and contested the elections in 2008.
The plunge of former militants or even their sympathisers into mainstream politics was not against the trend. Congress MLA from Bandipora, Usman Majeed, was a militant before he turned to fight against them and became a legislator. In the current PDP-BJP dispensation, Social Welfare Minister Sajad Gani Lone is a politician whose father, Abdul Gani Lone, was considered to be the founder of Hurriyat. Lone gave up separatist politics and went to the extreme of supporting BJP and was one of the first few politicians from Kashmir to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before the former chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, clinched a power sharing deal with the BJP.
However, Rashid’s joining of mainstream politics and now offering to work with either of the factions of Hurriyat headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a development that is dramatic. Although earlier former chief minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah praised the Hurriyat ahead of the Srinagar parliamentary elections in April, the offer to join the separatists by any mainstream politician in Kashmir is a first of its kind. Rashid was in 2006 accused of being the spokesman of JeM and he fought the case at a Srinagar court and was acquitted of the charges in 2012. Two years later in 2008 he resigned from the JKPCC to contest as an independent candidate from Langate assembly seat and got elected as an MLA. He won the 2014 election as well from the seat.
But as an MLA, Rashid talked about giving the people the right of joining Pakistan through the vote of self-determination, which forced the BJP members to seek his expulsion as a legislator. He also faced suspension as an MLA and has been critical of both the NC and PDP targeting them for the "sufferings of people of Kashmir." Rashid was attacked by the BJP MLAs earlier in the Legislative Assembly after he organised a beef party at the Srinagar MLA hostel. The issue had snowballed into a major controversy and senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, had to apologise on behalf of his MLAs for the attack on Rashid as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and NC working president Omar Abdullah condemned the action.
Before Rashid announced his plans to join Hurriyat, his party members including the Awami Itehad Party (AIP) spokesman Inam-ul-Nabi were in touch with the separatists in Kashmir. Inam went to meet Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz on Thursday to discuss the possibility of Rashid joining the separatist outfit, but he said "the authorities didn’t allow me to meet Mirwaiz."
Offering to join Hurriyat for the larger Kashmir cause of right to self-determination, Rashid in a statement said, "It is not the time to blame each other but work for resolution of Kashmir dispute and stop New Delhi from its utterances and efforts. It is indulging in changing the dispute nature of J&K."
The Langate MLA said that he was responding to the offer of Hurrriyat that mainstream politicians should join the separatists.
Rashid told Firstpost that he was forced to fight elections after the excesses committed by the government forces on him. He also said that he was seeking appointment with Geelani, Mirwaiz and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yaseen Malik and other pro-freedom leaders to discuss joining the separatists.
A poster child of controversies Rashid would often praise Geelani and Mirwaiz in the Assembly, when others accused him of reneging on his oath to abide by the Indian Constitution. Rashid even said that Geelani and Mirwaiz were the true representatives of Kashmiri people while lashing out at Omar Abdullah asking him to desist from carrying out attacks on Geelani.
Omar had questioned the locus standi of Geelani to give a call for protection of Article 35A when he had not been recognising the Indian constitution. Before Rashid made his offer public, he had supported the 12 August call of the Hurriyat Conference against any move to scrap Article 35A that bars the people from outside in owning the properties in Kashmir.
Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 22:11 PM