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December 27, 1999
Panun Kashmir opposes demand to release Masood
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
While the relatives of the hostages held on board Flight 814 in Kandahar are pressing the Government of India to accept the hijackers's demand and release Harkat-ul Ansar secretary general Maulana Masood Azhar, Panun Kashmir, an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, has joined issue with them and opposed his release.
"We can understand the feelings of the relatives. But the Government of India should not bow to pressure and release the terrorist who played havoc in Kashmir," Ramesh Rajdhan, an office-bearer of Panun Kashmir, told rediff.com
Asked how they would react if their own relatives were held hostage, Rajdhan retorted, "This is a small price to pay for one's country. The people whose relatives are being held should realise that the country is far more important than the lives of 160-odd passengers. We should not yield to pressure and encourage terrorism. We are still facing the consequences of the release of three top militants from Indian jails after the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989. For ten years Kashmir has been facing a terrorist onslaught."
Leave alone releasing Masood, the government should not even think about it, Panun Kashmir leaders said and blamed the civil aviation authorities of Nepal for letting the hijackers smuggle arms aboard the plane.
Another Panun Kashmir leader, Dr Shakti Bhan, said that as a doctor she wanted all the hostages to be released safely. But as a nationalist she felt that the government should explore other ways of getting the hostages released. "I am sure there are other ways to get them released, including diplomatic and military solutions. We in Kashmir have suffered a lot because our government had been committing one blunder after another. We would not want the government to repeat the mistakes of the past and they should deal with the hijackers with an iron hand," said Dr Bhan.
"Who the hell are they to talk like this? They can say anything because their relatives are not being held hostage. These Kashmiri Pandits have fled the valley and left the field open for the terrorists and now they are telling us to forget our relatives. Go ask them why the government released three dreaded terrorists to save just one Kashmiri girl who happened to be the daughter of the then home minister of India. Do they have any answer?" retorted angry relatives of the hostages when told about the Panun Kashmir stand.
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