Troops should be withdrawn and political prisoners set free

The chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has called for withdrawal of the troops and release of political prisoners as a pre-condition for talks with New Delhi.

The Mirwaiz, who was released from house arrest after two months, delivered a sermon at Jamia Masjid where Friday prayers were offered after six weeks. Later, he led thousands of people in protesting the recent killings in Kashmir.

Asserting that the ongoing agitation was not to demand any economic package, the Mirwaiz rejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal for talks to restore peace in the Kashmir Valley. “We know when the situation is normal. New Delhi says everything is fine in Kashmir, and we will not give it that opportunity this time,” he said.

The protests would continue until the Kashmir issue was resolved, he said.

The Mirwaiz reiterated his four-point demand to make the atmosphere conducive for any political engagement. “The withdrawal of Indian troops should start immediately; the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Area Act should be repealed; bunkers and camps should be removed from cities and towns; and all political prisoners, including the recently arrested youths, should be released… Only after these demands are met, can the three parties — India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris — move forward to resolve the Kashmir issue.”

The Mirwaiz said the atrocities and the gun had forced the people to launch civil disobedience. The Centre should come to grips with the ground reality and should “not shut its eyes” as it would prove detrimental to the fragile peace in the region.

He urged Syed Ali Geelani, who heads the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, not to call for any strike on Fridays when people should assemble, pray and register their protest at mosques and shrines which “are the centres of our freedom struggle.”

Kashmir Day

The Mirwaiz said Jumatul Vida (the last Friday of Ramadhan) would be observed as the Kashmir Day; on Eid-ul Fitr, the entire Kashmir would offer prayers at Eidgah, a ground in downtown Srinagar.

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