At a joint meeting Monday of the Executive and General Councils of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), delegates passed a no-confidence motion against current chairman Molvi Abbas Ansari and set up a new committee to carry out the day to day work of the organisation.

The local Kashmir Media Service said that the breakaway grouping issued a communiqué saying the leadership “has failed miserably to steer out the people of Kashmir from the difficulties they are facing at this critical juncture.”

The meeting followed a fraught weekend for the 23-member conglomerate which had seen four parties and nine splinter groups from other parties rally behind rival leadership contender Syed Ali Geelani.

Referendum

The dispute centres on Ansari’s reported backing of talks with the Indian government. This has pitted him against Geelani’s camp which opposes dialogue until New Delhi agrees to a referendum for the fate of the disputed Himalayan province, as called for by the United Nations.

“Implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions is the most viable way to resolve the issue of Kashmir”

Masarat Alam

The 74-year-old Geelani is a former chairman of the grouping and an advocate of the region’s accession to Pakistan.

In a rebel meeting yesterday, Ansari and his colleagues were accused of "betraying the sacrifices rendered by the people of the state in the freedom struggle", reported Aljazeera’s correspondent in the region.

According to local human rights groups some 70,000 people have been killed since an insurgency began in 1989 to throw off Indian rule.

Manipulation

The rebels also said that Ansari’s recent election as the head of the Hurriyat Conference was "manipulated" and ought to be rejected.

“Implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions is the most viable way to resolve the issue of Kashmir,” said Masarat Alam after yesterday’s meeting.

The split in the APHC will be seen by many Kashmiris as a blow to what has been a surprisingly unified independence struggle.

The union of disparate groups, ranging from pro-Pakistani Islamists to independent secularists who want Kashmir to be free of both Indian and Pakistani control, has survived intact since it was founded in 1993.

Assassination attempt

In another sign of increasing tensions between the two camps, suspected Islamist fighters tried to kill a member of the state legislature later Monday.

Iftikhar Hussain Ansari was attacked by gunfire as he visited a Shia religious shrine in central Srinagar, a police spokesman told AFP.

Ansari, who represents the long-ruling National Conference in the state legislature, has escaped two assassination attempts in the past.

Srinagar has seen a surge in violence since the visit of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the capital city on 27 August.