A file image of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq|Twitter @Mirwaizkashmir
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Moderate leader says the separatists are concerned about the youth picking up guns, blames the Centre for pushing them against a wall.

New Delhi: The moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has, for the first time, admitted that it has “lost connect” with the people of Kashmir Valley.

Against the backdrop of almost two years of unabated violence in south Kashmir, which broke out after the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016, the Mirwaiz said that the Hurriyat has failed to control the crisis.

Hundreds of people, including civilians, militants, as well as security forces, have been killed and injured during this unrest.

Speaking to ThePrint, he said: “There is a disconnect between the people and the Hurriyat. We are not able to control the youth who are at the forefront of this situation. Our focus was always to keep the movement non-violent, but since we have lost the political space for dialogue, the youth have taken over. We are worried and concerned about their lives.”

Centre to blame

Blaming the central government for its failure to reconcile with and reach out to the people, the Mirwaiz said youngsters were picking up arms in big numbers each day, and no one was able to contain the situation.

“The youth has been pushed against a wall. Those joining militancy are educated boys who have, in one way or another, faced harassment or been victimised by the security forces. The government has not given them the space to express, or even hold a peaceful protest,” he said.

“The state has pushed the youth to join  militancy. It is a compelling situation before us, because our space also remains curbed.”

The situation, he said, was painful. “We do not like to see our youth getting killed.”

Battleground Shopian

The Joint Resistance Leadership – an amalgamation of Hurriyat groups including those led by the Mirwaiz, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, held deliberations Thursday, and condemning the killing of youths and the grim situation in Shopian district.

In this recent spate of violence, Shopian has turned into a battleground between local militants and security forces, particularly this year. On 1 April, 20 people, including 13 militants, four civilians and three security personnel, were killed in a single day in three encounters.

“The situation in Shopian is grim. There is an absolute clampdown; videos of people whose houses have been burnt are heartbreaking. We cannot reach out to these places, because all the time, we (Hurriyat leaders) are under house arrest,” the Mirwaiz complained, saying the central government was dealing with them with an “iron fist”.

“There is more anger and hate towards the state. Dealing with an iron fist is not going to yield any results. The government of India is losing ground in terms of reconciliation and reaching out to the people.

“We cannot be silent anymore. We have decided not to be mute spectators. Whatever we can do to protect the youth and stop this bloodshed, we will. The government should also give an alternative to the youth to stop this cycle of bloodshed.”

Hurriyat calendars

In previous periods of unrest, such as 2008, the year of the Amarnath land row, and 2010, when nearly 100 youngsters were killed in the aftermath of the killing of schoolboy Tufail Mattoo, the Hurriyat would issue calendars to give shutdown calls.

However, when the unrest returned in 2016, people followed the calendars only for the first few months. The Hurriyat contemplated calling off the shutdowns, but didn’t, because it feared it would look like it had come under pressure from the Centre. Eventually, people started defying the shutdown calls.

“We cannot have hartals (shutdowns) all the time. We have thought of a mechanism to have occasional hartals,” the Mirwaiz said.

The JRL will announce its next course of action, to protest recent civilian killings, Saturday.

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