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The Rediff Special/ Onkar Singh
Salahudin's village recalls him with fondness
Syed Salahudin, chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, created a flutter in Kashmiri politics when he announced a unilateral ceasefire earlier this month, paving the way for talks to resume between the Government of India and Hizbul.
"Salahudin contested the state assembly elections in 1986-87 from Amirakadal, against Mohiuddin of the National Conference. Though Salahuddin won the elections, he was declared defeated. When he went to protest against the election results the state government put him behind bars. This became the turning point of his career. During the ten months in jail he met several militants and decided to launch his own outfit. In 1989 he launched Hizbul Mujahideen and went across the border to avenge the injustice done to him," his brother Syed Gulam Mohiuddin told rediff.com. in his village Soibug, in Badgam district 25 km from Srinagar.
Salahudin, a master's in political science, no less, may launched a struggle for the state, but his own village is only seeing some development. A road is now under construction and the state administration has deployed two road engines to level the road and make it motorable.
His ancestral house in the village is the focus of attention, particularly after he announced the ceasefire and decided to hold talks with the government. "We have not seen him for the last seven years. His wife (Taja Begum) and his seven children left the village soon after he crossed over to Pakistan and started his own outfit," recalled his elder brother who lives in the village along with another brother.
The family, over the last ten years, has faced trouble both from militant groups as well as the paramilitary forces. "We are in a very bad state, caught as we are between the devil and the deep sea. If some reporter visits us, the state police lands up at our house and asks us all sorts of questions. But after my brother announced a ceasefire, things have changed for the better and nobody now bothers us with anything," said the 63 year old Mohiuddin.
"Salahudin is only 55. We hope to see him soon because of these developments. I came to know about the ceasefire from the announcement over All India Radio, and the moment I heard it, I heaved a sigh of relief. I do not know what will come of these talks but the fact that talks have begun is good enough for all of us," he said.
Newsmen are more or less unwelcome in this house for obvious reasons. Each time the family members talk to the media, particularly TV channels, they have invariably run into problems with the state administration.
Salahudin maybe the Valley's man of the moment, but for the dishoused Kashmiri Pandit community he is the villain of the piece. "It was Hizbul that killed 23 Kashmiri Pandits in Wadhawa on January 26,1998, how can we forget this massacre? His people have killed innocents all over the state, in Rajouri,Poonch, Doda, Kupwara, Srinagar, Badgam, Baramullah, Pulwama and Anantnag. It was his outfit that sabotaged the ceasefire announced by JKLF leader Yasin Malik in 1994," burst out a Kashmiri Pandit angrily. "This government is talking to such a man!"
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