They kept an unfathomable distance from all four phases of the Jammu and Kashmir elections and turned up their noses at the turnout. But on Thursday, activists and leaders put aside their scorn for the elections and crowded into a smoke-filled room at the Hurriyat Conference headquarters, watching every twist and turn of the ballot box on television.
Functionaries of the separatist conglomerate thumped desks and cheered on some results while sneering at others, even as they insisted that they had “nothing to do with the results”. There was glee at the news that the People’s Conference proxy candidates were trailing. ‘‘These people have cast a slur on our image by breaking away from us and contesting the polls. They should lose,’’ raged Mukhtar Naqashbandi as he thumped the desk with a clenched fist.
And there was hushed silence when the day’s most shocking defeat—that of National Conference president Omar Abdullah from Ganderbal to People’s Democratic Party’s Qazi Afzal—was flashed.
Ghulam Hassan Majrooh, the Hurriyat’s press secretary, refused to believe what he’d just seen. ‘‘This is a sham,’’ he declared with a wave of his hand. ‘‘They will change the result any minute, don’t believe them. They will announce that he has won. Anyway, we have nothing to do with the results.’’
JKLF leader Javed Mir, who stepped in just then, poured some more scorn on the proceedings.
‘‘His defeat was expected. You should not be surprised by the news,’’ he said. Mir’s glee was unmistakable as the BJP’s debacle in Jammu city became evident.
‘‘These people are a threat to secularism in the state. They should be wiped out from Jammu and Kashmir. Let anybody win but not these fascists.’’
Yet, the curiosity only increased as the day wore on. As news of PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s victory was announced, the buzz in the room shifted to a comparison between the NC and PDP leaders.
Hurriyat Chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat saw hope in a PDP-Congress alliance.
‘‘It remains to be seen whether the PDP and Congress will cobble together a majority to form the government. If they do, they should take lessons from the NC’s fate and make attempts to understand the dynamics of the Kashmir problem,’’ Bhat intoned.
The PDP’s sincerity would be tested when it acted on its campaign promise of starting a dialogue with militants, he said, even as he maintained that the results were a ‘‘vote against the Central Government’’.
Published in ExpressIndia