Mirwaiz warns of mass protests, asks Mufti to quit

Srinagar: Saying Jammu and Kashmir had become “a vast prison”, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq on Thursday warned of mass protests and asked Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to quit.

“For the past seven or eight months, the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated and an alarming scenario is developing due to repression and stifling of dissent,” he told the media here.

He alleged that social, religious and political rights of the people had been curtailed.

“The government isn’t allowing us to present our views peacefully before people. Our programmes are scuttled by force.

“We are kept under house detention and our workers and youths are arrested. It is a rule through the barrel of the gun,” said the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference.

He said the chief minister’s pre-election slogans of peace and dialogue had proven to be a facade.

“He (Sayeed) has lost the moral authority to be in power. He has surrendered all rights to police and security agencies. Kashmir has been turned into a vast prison and virtually a police state.”

The Mirwaiz came down heavily on the government for imposing restrictions, particularly in the old city of Srinagar which has witnessed frequent protests between protesters and security forces.

“More than 40 times curfew like restrictions have been imposed in the old city this year. Police are using bullets, tear gas, pellets and pepper gas on people. Pepper gas has become a health hazard.

“We feel it is a deliberate attempt on the part of the authorities to compel people to shift from downtown and punish them out for being emotionally attached with the resistance movement,” he said.

The Hurriyat leader claimed that 250 youths had been arrested in the Kashmir Valley in the past one week.

He hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who announced a Rs.80,000 crore economic package for the state in Srinagar on November 7.

“Kashmir isn’t an economic or law and order issue. It is a political issue which needs to be resolved politically. But he (Modi) deliberately ignored this fact.

“Dialogue is the way to resolve the Kashmir issue, but the Indian leadership is using arrogance and aggression instead. The state government is taking dictation from Delhi and is at war with the people.”

Mirwaiz said he has invited separatist, religious, trade, student and civil society groups on November 18 at his party headquarters to discuss the current situation.

“We will discuss the entire situation threadbare and devise means to counter the government’s way of imposing restrictions after every killing and to foil our programmes.”

Asked what if the situation doesn’t change, Mirwaiz said: “Then we will have to ask people to come on to the streets, and people may take law and order into their own hands… The government will be responsible for the consequences.”