Basharat Peer in New Delhi
Ved Bhasin, chairman of Kashmir Times, described the killing of All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Gani Lone as a 'big jolt' to the people favouring peaceful means for the settlement of the Kashmir issue.
"Lone's death is a big loss to the Hurriyat Conference," Bhasin told rediff.com.
"Lone was an intelligent person and a very close friend," Bhasin, who knew Lone since 1967, said.
Lone was elected to the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly in 1967 and quickly climbed the political ladder becoming a minister in the Mir Qasim-led Congress government in the early seventies.
But he resigned from the ministry and joined the Janata Party, Bhasin said, recollecting: "He was the leader of the Janata Party 1977 and I was the general secretary. We worked together for the restoration of the autonomy in J&K in various forums."
In 1987, Lone was at the forefront of Muslim United Front -- a coalition of political parties -- that contested the 1987 election against the National Conference and lost.
The elections were allegedly rigged in favour of the NC-Congress coalition and most of the MUF leaders became separatists.
"He was the rallying force behind MUF. But after the 1987 election, he lost faith in the electoral process and came to believe that demanding autonomy would not satisfy the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. It was then that he joined the separatist camp," Bhasin explained the transition of Lone from mainstream to separatist politics.
After the formation of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference, Lone remained a force to reckon with in the forum. For the last some years he had been emphasising on peaceful means to solve the Kashmir issue.
"He was trying to give some direction to the Hurriyat Conference and working hard to find a way out of the Kashmir imbroglio," Bhasin added.
As to who can be behind Lone's death, Bhasin said, "It is difficult to say who did it at the moment. But he had enemies in both the establishment as well some militant groups, who were opposed to any peace process."
"Lone was a progressive man, who believed in pluralism and secularism and never thought on communal lines," Bhasin said.
He reasoned that was why a large number of Kashmiri Pandits from Lone's area were close to him.
"His killing means that guns are silencing reasonable, moderate voices. The lesson that can learned from his death is that the guns from both the sides should be silenced," he said.
"The greatest tribute that can be paid to Lone would be to follow peaceful means to solve the Kashmir issue," Bhasin said.
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