Kashmir: Ex-separatists take lead in jumping into LS polls

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz. Updated: 4/10/2024 3:12:52 AM Front Page

PC’s Sajad Lone, AIP’s Engineer Rashid have been declared as the first candidates in North Kashmir

SRINAGAR: While most of the conventional polling players are still undecided about their constituencies, former separatists Sajad Lone and Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid are the first politicians whose candidature has been announced by their political parties for the current Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir.
Of all formidable contestants, none other than Mian Altaf Ahmad of the National Conference (NC), besides the former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti (Peoples Democratic Party) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (Democratic Progressive Azad Party), has been declared as a candidate in Kashmir until Tuesday. They will be contesting from South Kashmir where the notification for the first phase is being issued on 12 April and the polling is scheduled to be held on 7 May.
While the NC is still tight-lipped about the remaining two seats, the PDP has declared greenhorn Waheed-ur-Rehman Para and the former Rajya Sabha member Fayaz Ahmad Mir as its candidates from Central and North Kashmir respectively. The Congress party and the BJP are also silent about all the three seats.
The Peoples Conference (PC) has declared Sajad as its candidate in North Kashmir and Apni Party (AP) has nominated ex-MLC Zaffar Iqbal Manhas for South Kashmir, though both the parties are still undecided about the rest of the seats.
Created by Abdul Gani Lone’s PC, both Sajad and Rashid were active on the forefront of the separatist movement till 2008.
Even as Sajad remained associated with the Hurriyat conglomerate through the street turmoil of 2008, Rashid broke away and made his first foray in electoral politics at the year-end. He contested as an independent candidate and was declared elected as MLA from his home constituency of Langet.
In 2014, Rashid won his second consecutive Assembly election from Langet. His last election in 2019 was for the Lok Sabha when NC’s Mohammad Akbar Lone was returned with 1.33 lakh votes. While PC’s Raja Aijaz Ali polled 1.03 lakh votes, Rashid came 3rd with 1.02 lakh votes.
Banking on a pseudo-separatist sentiment, Rashid courted controversies even after shifting to the mainstream politics in 2008. On one occasion, he organised a controversial ‘beef kebab party’ inside Srinagar’s MLAs Hostel. On other occasions—including once on the floor of the Assembly—he led pro-plebiscite demonstrations, shouting slogans for the “resolution of the “Kashmir dispute” as per the UN Security Council resolutions of 1948 and 1949, which is a familiar Pakistani stand.
In 2019, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested, interrogated and booked Rashid in a case of alleged terror funding. Failing to get released on bail, he has been confined in a Delhi jail for the last about 5 years.
Senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone’s 58-year-old son and the JKLF founder Amanullah Khan’s son-in-law, Sajad is a graduate in Economics from Cardiff, England. Two years after his marriage was solemnised in Pakistan, his father was assassinated in broad daylight at a separatist congregation in Srinagar, in May 2002.
Sajad blamed the ISI and the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani for his father’s assassination but retracted subsequently.
Five years after his tryst with the mainstream politics, Sajad cobbled J&K’s only pre-poll alliance with the BJP and won his first Assembly election in 2014. He defeated NC's bigwig Chowdhary Ramzan in his home segment of Handwara which the latter had won in 1983, 1987, 1996 and 2008. Sajad was inducted into the PDP-BJP cabinet from the BJP quota.
After the breakdown of the PDP-BJP government, Sajad joined Farooq Abdullah-led Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) for safeguarding the erstwhile State’s special status. He was among the politicians who were detained after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. A year later he moved out and announced his separation from all parties, including the BJP. He is known for his outspoken criticism and frontal attacks on NC and PDP.
Lone has his influence and cadre in North Kashmir as he comes from a robust political background. After 2008, he has been carrying forward his father’s pre-1990 mainstream political legacy.
AG Lone had emerged as a mainstream political stalwart in North Kashmir in the 1960s through 1980s. He contested his first Assembly election as a Congress candidate from Handwara in 1967 and was declared elected unopposed. In 1972, he was again returned on Congress ticket from Handwara and inducted as a Minister in Syed Mir Qasim's government.
However, before the Qasim government was asked by Mrs Indira Gandhi to clear out for Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1975, AG Lone resigned. In 1977, he was a prominent face of the Janata Party-led alliance of Prime Minister Morarji Desai and was returned for his 3rd consecutive term from Handwara. He was among the only two Janata Party candidates who won in Kashmir where the NC swept 39 out of 42 seats.
Later in 1978 AG Lone floated the PC and contested from Handwara and Karnah segments in 1983. While he was elected from Karnah, he lost to NC's Ramzan in Handwara with a thin margin of only 10 votes. From 1990 till his assassination in 2002, he espoused the cause of Azadi and Kashmir's separation from India.

Updated On 4/10/2024 3:13:28 AM


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