All Party Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was heckled and manhandled at a seminar here, allegedly by activists of right-wing Hindu organisations and Kashmiri Pandits, on Thursday.
As Mr. Farooq started his address on ‘Jammu and Kashmir problem in the context of Indo-Pak,' a section of the audience objected to his speech calling it ‘anti-Indian' and tried to attack him. One person who attempted to attack the leader was immediately taken away but there was complete chaos inside the venue for close to an hour as the protesters shouted slogans against Mr. Farooq, the Hurriyat Conference and Pakistan; threw stones and hurled flower pots.
The organisers immediately threw a protective ring round Mr. Farooq and he escaped unhurt. The police later detained 10 people and the seminar resumed after an hour.
In his speech, Mr. Farooq laid emphasis on the involvement of people of Kashmir. “Last few months have shown us that youngsters are ready to pick stones against bullets. We have to accept that they are representing the anger of four generations of Kashmir which feel cheated and are demanding peace.” Any dialogue between India and Pakista or between the Central government and the State that excluded the Kashmir population “will never provide a solution because the issue is [one] of human aspirations and political decisions.”
Kashmir's “greatest misfortune” was that it was always viewed under the shadow of Pakistan and no one focussed on what the people wanted. “How can education, economic activity and development grow in a State whose landscape is marked by bunkers, bullets, barracks? Leaders are under house arrest and civil society is not allowed to debate and discuss matters. No announcement of jobs, subsidies, etc, will solve the problem because it needs a political solution with a human dimension.”
Mr. Farooq demanded that black laws in the region be lifted, the presence ofarmed forces reduced, human rights restored and political prisoners released.
Zameel Qazim, general secretary, International Democratic Party (IDP), which organised the seminar, said: “The attack was not a reaction to any statement. Mirwaiz just started speaking when they attacked him without provocation.”
But groups of Kashmiri Pandits who attended the seminar accused the Mirwaiz of provoking the protesters. “How is it that a man who is giving anti-India speeches is provided protection and Indians who try to stop him, are thrown into jail,” asked Nancy Ganju, member of the Kashmir Sahaya Sabha.
Mr. Farooq said he was on a mission to travel throughout the country and talk about the issues. For, “the whole world knows about the Kashmir issue but unfortunately the Indian government and its media are resorting to false propaganda and distorting historical facts.
It is high time that Indian civil society was briefed on all such issues that include the present political situation and violations of human, political and religious rights of Kashmiri people. Jammu and Kashmir was a disputed territory and the dispute needs to be resolved through negotiations,” The Kashmiris' struggle could not be suppressed by brute force, he said.
The Mirwaiz and Hurriyat executive council member Bilal Gani Lone are expected to travel to Kolkata, Lucknow and New Delhi to attend seminars organised by civil society groups.