Abdul Gani Lone's assassination has become a hot topic of public discussion in the Kashmir valley, where the word of mouth continues to be the most effective channel of communication. It is being discussed in public places like mosques and restaurants, as well as at social gatherings.
The daylight murder at a well attended public rally in the capital city points to the convergence of three diverse interests:
1. The Pakistani establishment saw Lone acting on a gameplane different from the one scripted
by them for the Kashmiri separatist movement.
2. The Indian side never trusted him completely to accept him as someone without a hidden agenda. The ruling elite in Lone's home state foresaw the formidable challenge inherent in his bid to return to mainstream politics, that too with the assembly election only a couple of months away.
3. The jihadi militants saw him as 'betraying' their common cause.
Mysterious circumstances of the assassination, ironically occurring on the 12th anniversary of another high profile political assassination -- that of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq -- strengthen the general belief that there was some common hand behind both. That Lone was the only target of the May 21 assassination at the Shaheed Mazar [martyrs graveyard] is clear beyond any shadow of doubt. The half-a-dozen other senior Hurriyat Conference leaders at the rally did not even get a scratch.
The killers emptied their weapons on Lone's body after killing one of his two police bodyguards and injured the other. Eyewitness estimate has it that more than 20 bullets were pumped into Lone's abdomen, chest, neck and limbs. His profusely bleeding abdomen looked like a sieve.
Lone had returned from America only two before his assassination and had addressed a seminar a day before his violent end. The plot was apparently planned in a meticulous manner and executed 'professionally.' Eyewitness account say there were 'two to three' killers, one or two of them wearing masks at the time of shooting. One of them fired [presumably] pistol shots at Lone who fell to the ground while another assassin went for Lone's bodyguard, Mushtaq, killing him instantly.
According to this version one of the killers then snatched Mushtaq's automatic firearm [reportedly an AK-47] and emptied its loaded magazine in Lone, who also died instantly.
Amid these reports, the state government abruptly removed Inspector General of Police Ashok Bhan from the important post of chief of security and shunted him to the police training school. This action strengthens the suspicion there is an official dimension to the theory of omissions and commissions surrounding the assassination.
His son Sajad charged that the state government had recently reduced Lone's security leaving only two personal bodyguards to protect him. Interestingly, the Shiv Sena member who was seen roughing up Lone in Jammu on television last month had more than six bodyguards shielding him and they came from the state police as well as the central paramilitary forces.
What is more surprising more is the fact that Lone's family had been requesting the state authorities for providing adequate security to him after attempts were made on his life from time to time. The manner in which the state security is provided to public figures in Kashmir defies common sense. Many non-entities have too many escorts while the more vulnerable are left dangerously uncovered. No wonder Lone's family feel he might have survived the assassination if his personal security had not been reduced. According to them, the reduced security had 'facilitated and contributed' to the tragic happening.
A newspaper report from Delhi, so far not denied by the government, said the Centre had alerted the Kashmir government about the heightened threat perception relating to Lone's life. The state had been advised to provide adequate security cover to him. The local grapevine has it that the police department had processed the file and passed it on to the state home department. So far there is no official comment. But Bhan's transfer makes one smell a rat.
As in the case of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, no militant group has claimed responsibility for Lone's murder. The police claimed to have arrested some suspects but nothing concrete has come out till now.
Terrorism Strikes in Jammu: The complete coverage
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