New Delhi: In a surprise move, Kashmiri separatist leaders have called for an end to violence and bloodshed in the Valley.
Following the attack on Monday that killed seven and injured 19 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims, separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik released a statement saying, “All bloodshed on all sides is uncalled for…and should stop and that can happen only when the reality of Kashmir is accepted."
However, intelligence officers who have been monitoring the moves of the separatists from the Hurriyat Conference and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) dismissed claims of a rethink by separatists.
“The Hurriyat’s only philosophy has been pro-Pakistan all these years. Harming unarmed civilians is terrorism and now if they don’t condemn that, they will be seen as factions supporting the killing of innocents and that would go against their Kashmir cause," said a senior intelligence officer, who did not wish to be identified.
With the Kashmiri masses’ faith in the separatists beginning to waver, a lack of solidarity among their leaders would lower their “credibility," this officer said.
“It is no secret that they (separatists) draw sponsorship from Pakistan. Ironically, there is also a huge wave of disillusionment against Pakistan and the Hurriyat on the streets of Kashmir. While they have always advocated hurting the men in uniform, they would find it hard to win back support of the people if they did not voice their support now," he said.
The separatists, the official added, reacted because they feared that silence on the Yatra attack would hurt their cause.
The Amarnath Yatra attack has embarrassed Syed Ali Shah Geelani who, earlier in June, had dismissed terror threats to the annual pilgrimage.
“The terror threat to the upcoming Yatra is a brazen lie and aimed at maligning the freedom movement," Geelani had said.
A senior Jammu and Kashmir police official labelled the separatists’ show of solidarity as “empty posturing."
“One who eggs common people on to harm soldiers and advocates the use of violence is lying when he denounces the Yatra attack. He is only hiding behind the Kashmir cause because he wants to continue to brainwash the people and emerge looking like a messiah," the official said.
Since its inception in 1993, the Hurriyat has represented the intellectual face of militancy in the Valley, promising the people either complete autonomy or an eventual merger with Pakistan.
Hurriyat and JKLF leaders have constantly tried to brush aside allegations of being sponsored by Pakistan and their tacit support to the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
However, the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) case against them in May, alleging transfer of funds from the LeT to the Hurriyat and other separatists, contradicted those claims.
With the centre intensifying its crackdown on the Hurriyat and its allies, government officials said the separatists were under pressure.
“We have immense faith in the people of Kashmir and know that they will never support a wrong cause. The separatists’ promise of autonomy to the Kashmiris is hollow and even the people know it now," said a senior home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
Experts said the attack on pilgrims was being used as a matter of convenience by the separatists.
“Why did they not denounce the killing of Lt. Umar Fayaz, who was killed during his sister’s wedding? He was unarmed, not in uniform and innocent. Their only ideology is pro-Pakistan and now they are milking the situation," said Gaurav Arya, defence expert and former Indian Army officer.