THE ELDER brother of Peoples Conference leader and BJP ally Sajad Lone is planning to change the name of his party to “end any confusion”. A senior separatist leader, Bilal Lone represents his Peoples Conference (PC) in the Hurriyat Conference. His brother Sajad Lone, who switched over to mainstream in 2009. too is heading his Peoples Conference.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bilal said he will “permanently stay in pro-freedom politics” because that is “the right path” and “the true legacy of his late father Abdul Gani Lone”.
He said he had called a meeting of his people “to take a decision to end this confusion about two PCs”, and that it is for those who comprise the party to decide whether to go with the mainstream or stay with him. “I can tell them my point of view. I can’t force anybody. I have a very strong group of followers who are with me and will hopefully continue to be with me,” he said.
“Sajad and I have separated politically a long time ago… For all practical purposes, these are two parties now with two different and distinct political ideologies,” Bilal said.
He said that Sajad had invited him once to also join the mainstream. “He told me why don’t you join me so that together we would be stronger as a political force. I said thanks a lot, I am fine where I am. It was a very brief conversation… He never asked me again.”
Bilal said for him, decisions such as being part of the Hurriyat were a “lifelong commitment”. “I am nothing in front of my father. He died for his beliefs and principles, I will try in my way to carry his legacy forward… I am on the right path, the path my father had chosen for himself and his party.”
“I joined Hurriyat in 2002 after my father’s killing. Since that time, I have taken a decision to be in this forum (Hurriyat) and for me nothing changes,” he said. “These things are not changed with time. I think it was a good decision and I will always stand by it,” he said. “Situations come and go.”
About Sajad and his politics, he said, “I am not a judge to voice my opinion about anyone else. Kashmir is a big place, everybody has his or her own way of thinking. We should know how to coexist. I have taken my decision and he has taken his. My only wish is he takes care of Kashmiri aspirations while he is in the mainstream.”
Bilal said they had left the bitter fights they had over the issue behind.
“We have had our bitter fights on this issue in the past. We have passed that phase. We had serious problems between us because of our political choices. We didn’t even talk for years… five six years. Then we decided that we need to allow each other to take their own paths. That’s how we moved ahead,” he said. “Those years of bitterness taught us a lot. Sajad is my brother and I love him. Nothing will ever change that. But in politics we have our own ways. Once siblings are adults, they take their own decisions. I have taken my decision and he has taken his…. We have separate paths. That difference of opinion and paths is separate from our relationship as siblings”.
About how they could go on different paths politically when their support base was the same, Bilal said, “I am not in electoral politics. We are here for a bigger cause, much bigger than getting elected to the Assembly or forming a government… Sajad and I have separated politically a long time ago… and those people who were supporters of Lone sahib (their father) have made their decision a long time ago… for all practical purposes, these are two parties now with two different and distinct political ideologies. That phase has completed a long time ago,” he said.
“The Hurriyat does not have problem with it. But if they do and communicate that to me, I will retire from politics.”
He said that that he will not oppose Sajad “because my brother has chosen a different path” but will do so “politically, as a member of Hurriyat”.
Bilal said that he never wanted to join politics. “I joined politics because the way my father was killed. I want that the people who killed him shouldn’t think that they got rid of him and killed his ideology. My ideal to join this politics was my father,” he said.
“I have seen my father rising from humble background, working hard and then taking the biggest decision of his political life to join the pro-freedom politics, something not many people have done. He didn’t take that decision under any pressure. He took that decision because he wanted to do that.”
Does he think the Hurriyat will be able to sustain politically? “I think there is room to do more. The Hurriyat should live, the Hurriyat should move ahead and take good decisions for the sake of the people,” Bilal said.
Regarding the surge in militancy, Bilal said, “There is a lot of repression and nobody in the world is listening to our pain unfortunately. But We can’t allow our young children to keep on getting killed like this. The leadership should jointly take a call on this. Don’t know whether they will succeed… These boys take their own decisions,” he said. “It is very painful that our youngsters are losing their lives almost every day. I feel for them. But I feel helpless.”
At the same time, Bilal said, status quo was not an option for Kashmir. “Status quo may suit India or Pakistan, but status quo is not good for Kashmiris,” he said. “There is no option for Kashmiris to force India and Pakistan to come on table. We have heard a lot of statements but see the ground carefully, unless and until there are talks nothing is going to change,” he said.
About whether his father Abdul Gani Lone, who had got disillusioned with electoral politics, would have returned to it if he had been alive, Bilal said no. “I know he would have gone back to our village in Kupwara to live with his people.”