Separatist hardliner Masarat Alam Bhat is arrested again and put under the detention by Jammu and Kashmir police. Alam’s early morning arrest has come soon after Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani was put under the house arrest late on Thursday night.
“Arrest is nothing new for us… this is not happening for the first time. This detention will not deter us,” Alam told the press as he was led away by the police.
Both the hardliners along with another separatist leader Peer Saifullah were booked under the provisions of Ranbir Penal Code (J&K version of IPC) with the charges of criminal conspiracy, rioting, causing injury, attacking government employee and causing public mischief along with section 13 of UAPA.
Masarat Alam was first placed under the house arrest late last night and formally arrested from his home in Habbakadal area of the city early this morning, Jammu and Kashmir police said.
An FIR against the three was lodged in Budgam police station on Wednesday after the trio addressed a rally where Pakistan national flag was waved followed by the chants of pro-Pakistan slogans. The rally was organised to welcome SAS Geelani at his home town Hyderpora in the outskirts of the state capital Srinagar. Geelani, then, had just been released from a long house arrest which began in December 2013.
The Wednesday rally snowballed into a major controversy for the Jammu and Kashmir government as the protest broke out over the act of Pakistan national flag waved on Indian soil. While political parties, mainly the Congress, protested on the streets, BJP marked their protest to the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Both BJP and Mufti-led PDP are running a coalition government in the state since February this year. Both alliance and the government are having a difficult run, to say the least.
Under pressure of the opposition and from their own constituency, BJP too had limited options. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told J&K chief minister Mufti Sayeed to take “immediate and stringent action”. “We cannot tolerate Pakistan’s flag in India. We asked to take strong action against this” he reportedly said.
The BJP also held a rally against their own government in Jammu with their leaders saying
“We are not part of the government to give space to those shouting pro-Pakistan slogans.”
The arrest has come few hours before Geelani was tipped to have given a call for a march to Tral area of Pulwama district to protest against the killing of a youth by security forces on 13th April. Family members and the local residents allege that he was killed in a fake encounter, while the army claims he was a militant and killed in a gun battle.
The seemingly testing alliance between the BJP and PDP has already experienced some strains over the issue of Masarat Alam’s release in March this year.
Alam, a 44 years old hardliner gained prominence in Kashmir’s separatist politics after he organised a massive stone-throwing protest in 2010 in the valley. The then NC-Congress government led by Omar Abdullah had subsequently put him under the detention for disrupting public peace. Since 2010 he was in jail till the PDP-BJP government decided to set him free on 1st March 2015.
Masarat’s release attracted a stirring criticism for the government, both at the state and for the NDA government at the centre.