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Kashmiri separatists join hands to oppose army, migrant enclave plan

Srinagar, May 25 (IANS) Divided Kashmiri separatist leaders have found a new cause to join hands against the government’s purported plans to set up enclaves for migrant Hindu families and soldiers who retire serving in the restive state.

This is for the first time after the 2008 Amarnath land row that top separatists — Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik — have agreed to form an “issue-based alliance” and stop the government from “engineering demography” of India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Malik, who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, is said to be the mastermind of the “new found unity” of the otherwise divided separatist leaders, a source told IANS.

The JKLF chief first met Geelani at his upscale residence in Srinagar on Monday and a day later the two had a meeting with the Mirwaiz.

Geelani, who broke away from the Hurriyat Conference in 2003 over “ideological” differences with the Mirwaiz, said it was imperative to “fight together, but peacefully” and not play “mute spectators to the government’s plan to change the demography of our state”.

Geelani said the separatist leadership was not against any plan to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits, who fled the valley in early 1990s at the start of the Pakistan-sponsored armed insurgency.

“But, why separate enclaves? We will welcome them but not in settlements. They have their homes here. The government’s approach is immoral and undemocratic. Our unity on this issue shall continue,” the 86-year-old chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat told IANS.

The Mehbooba Mufti-headed PDP-BJP government has, however, ruled out exclusive colonies for retired army soldiers.

But a 2015 proposal note of the state government says the divisional administration in Kashmir has agreed to allot “173 kanals (some nine hectares) of land on payment in the old air field area (in Srinagar) for some 26 officers, 125 junior commissioned officers and 900 others”.

Naeem Akhtar, state education minister and the government’s spokesperson, denied and said no land has been marked for “sainik colonies” and “there is no question of making separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits”.

The Mirwaiz said “the situation” had brought them together as the government was planning to do away with the “the special status” of the state.

He alleged that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had traded interest of Kashmiris for its “lust of power”.

“The PDP has given the control and power of running the state to the BJP,” the Mirwaiz told IANS.

Malik said since the government was playing “foul” with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the separatist leadership needed to stay together to foil its “dangerous plans”.

He refused to divulge details of the planned agitation but said that they have called for a complete valley-wide shutdown on Thursday against separate settlements.

Even mainstream parties like the opposition National Conference have sided with the separatists in opposing the plan of separate colonies for retired troopers.

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