NARBAL: In a rare show of unity, top separatist leaders tried to downplay differences in achieving what they asserted was a common goal.

Coming together after a gap of nearly seven years to condole the death of Suhail Ahmad Sofi who was killed in police firing, the leaders said they stand united against “Indian atrocities” on Kashmiris.

The three frontline separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik had to face each other as they reached Narbal at the same time to condole the death of Suhail Ahmad Sofi in police firing.

Addressing a joint public gathering at Narbal chowk, the trio condemned the killing and termed it as “another heinous crime from the Government of India”.

Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Geelani said despite being in separate parties, all pro-freedom leaders of Jammu and Kashmir have one stand regarding the “Indian occupation” of Kashmir and the election “drama” in the state.

Geelani said the pro-freedom leadership is striving for freedom “but it is people who forget it and cast votes in the elections”.

“All the pro-freedom leaders appealed for boycott of the recently held election drama in the state but the people disobeyed and some of them cast votes in the favour of the pro-Indian people,” Geelani said.

“Kashmir has offered sacrifices of millions of people from 1947 but our people don’t meet the demands of those sacrifices. They damage the freedom struggle for the sake of roads, electricity and employment,” he said.

“Unless people address their weaknesses, the goal of freedom would remain a distinct dream and Narbal and Tral like innocent killings will continue to take place.”

Lashing out at mainstream political parties, Geelani said they were all driven by power and are not concerned about the miseries of people.

“BJP with the help of PDP wants to implement RSS agenda in Kashmir. They want to erode Muslim identity of Kashmiris and change the demography of the state,” he said.

Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said there might be some ideological differences “but the pro-freedom leadership is working for the same goal to achieve right to self-determination”.

“People of Kashmir are united in pursuing their goal of freedom. The sacrifices of martyrs will not go waste with complete unity of purpose and commitment,” he said.

Mirwaiz said Kashmiris are being killed and restrictions are imposed on resistance leadership to force people into giving up their struggle.

“The tactics of suppression and oppression is not going to change the fundamental realities of Kashmir issue,” he added.

Mirwaiz said under the garb of laws like AFSPA, armed forces have been given free license to kill innocent civilians.

He said the settlement of Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the people was imperative for establishment of durable peace in Kashmir and South Asia.

Pitching for the unity among separatist leaders, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chief, Muhammad Yasin Malik said: “We are jointly expressing our heartfelt grief to the bereaved family of innocent Suhail Ahmad Sofi who was brutally killed by trigger-happy Indian soldiers.”

“Playing with the lives of our innocent youth has become a routine job for the forces. Such murders are not acceptable to any civilized society,” he said.

Malik said people should decide whether they want elections or strive for freedom. “People have to decide whether they want to participate in elections or strive for freedom. If you want both then we cannot achieve anything and these killings will continue to take place,” he said.

Malik said the killings are pushing Kashmiri youth towards violent path. “When you completely stifle a peaceful political struggle you are actually promoting violence and pushing young boys to the wall. Our struggle will continue and nothing can deter us from marching towards freedom,” he said

Malik urged people to remain vigilant against “conspiracies” hatched against Kashmiri “liberation” struggle.

Earlier in the day, authorities lifted restrictions on the movement of all separatist leaders.

The police contingent which was deployed outside the residence of Geelani was removed Sunday night. Other pro-freedom leaders Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan were also released late in the night from house detention.