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Two brothers, two ideologies and big Lone family stands at the crossroads of history in J&K

Ishfaq-ul-Hassan(DNA): When former separatist Sajjad Gani Lone was taking the oath of a cabinet minister, his separatist brother Bilal Gani Lone seemed to be quietly renewing his faith in the `azadi’ pledge of his slain father and People’s Conference (PC) patriarch Abdul Gani Lone.

From the voice of separatists during 2008 Amarnath land agitation to the minister in Mufti Mohommad Sayeed led PDP-BJP government, Sajjad Lone has come a long way to start his second innings of neo neta in Jammu and Kashmir.

An author of Achievable Nationhood, a vision document calling for single economic entity out of “two distinct geographical and political sub-entities” with separate sovereignty linkages with India and Pakistan, the 47-year-old Cardiff educated Sajjad first hogged the limelight in May 2002 when his father was assassinated at Eidgah martyrs graveyard where he had gone to pay tributes to slain Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq who was killed in same fashion in 1990.

Later Sajjad was made the chairman of the PC while his brother Billal Gani Lone was made the executive member of the then united Hurriyat Conference. However Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani engineered a split in the conglomerate in 2003 after he accused Sajjad for fielding proxy candidates in the 2002 assembly elections.

A year later Sajjad’s party (PC) too split after he decided to pull out of Hurriyat in protest against Mirwaiz for leading funeral prayers of his father’s assassin. However his brother Bilal Gani Lone rebelled and refused to leave Hurriyat.

Come 2015, Sajjad is now wearing a hat of mainstream leader rubbing shoulders with pro-India politicians he once criticised.

“Political problem apart there is a developmental problem in Kashmir. We have always been stressing that basic development problem should be addressed. And if we have to work in that direction then we have to be part of the government. For that reason we have succeeded today,” Rashid Mehmood, general secretary of Sajjad led PC told dna.

With Sajjad dabbling in mainstream politics, his brother Bilal, a member of moderate Hurriyat Conference’s Executive Council, an apex decision making body of the conglomerate, stands out sharpening his skills to pursue his goal of “azadi”

“Why should I be hurt? I am on my path and I know what I am doing. I am not morally that big man to give sermons. Concept of freedom is my father’s path. I am on that path. I am not concerned about others”, Bilal told dna.
Bilal noted that they (two brothers) had split and things are like that even now. “Everybody has his own life. Families get bigger and bigger. This is evolution in family. For my being in separatist camp is because of my father. I know azadi through him,” he said.

Lone family is the only second among the separatist bloc who have members in both mainstream and secessionist bloc. The Agas of Budgam has members in both separatist and mainstream politics.

Lone family however stands in contrast since the PC patriarch and slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone had shunned mainstream politics and embraced separatism. He was jailed for several years and became one of the founding members of the Hurriyat Conference.

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