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Controversial Kashmiri separatist to contest Indian elections

Srinagar, April 11, 2009:

Senior separatist leader Sajjad Gani Lone here Saturday said he would contest the coming Indian general elections to represent the dominant Kashmiri sentiment in the Indian parliament.

Addressing a news conference at his uptown residence in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, Lone said he will continue to challenge the Indian rule in Kashmir but would participate in Indian polls to represent Kashmir in the Indian parliament.

Sajjad Lone, the son of assassinated separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, will become the first separatist leader of his caliber to take part in the Indian general elections which begin next week.

Lone’s decision comes a day after separatist leaders gave a poll boycott call.

Lone said, if voted to power, it would be hard for him to take oath as a Member of Parliament under the Indian constitution.

“If elected, I will take oath with a heavy heart,” he said.

Lone, known for his fiery speeches and television debates, said he won’t be the Indian poster boy but the poster boy of Kashmiri separatism in the Indian parliament.

Lone would contest from the north Kashmir’s Baramulla-Kupwara constituency for the 543-member lower house of the Indian parliament.

Lone became the reason of the split of the separatist conglomerate All Parties Hurriyat Conference after four candidates of his Peoples Conference participated in the 2002 assembly polls.

He then disowned the participating candidates.

However today Lone addressed media persons flanked by one of those four candidates, Ghulam Mohuiddin Sofi, who remained a minister during the previous coalition government in the region.

He said his decision to join the poll fray had strained his relations with elder brother Bilal Gani Lone, who is an executive member of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Lone’s sister Shabnum Gani contested the state elections in Kashmir in 2008 from the north Kashmir’s Kupwara seat but lost.

Lone himself had then called for a long march and urged people to boycott polls.

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