Srinagar: Unnerved by a joint strategy formulated by “united” separatist camp against the government’s plans to construct Sainik Colonies for retired army officials and ghetto-type housing complexes for displaced Kashmiri migrants, the Jammu and Kashmir government has come down heavily on separatist leaders by putting them either behind bars or under constant house detention.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Yasin Malik, was put in city’s Central Jail for a week. He was briefly released on Friday evening but was rearrested on Saturday soon after he addressed a press conference in Srinagar. JKLF, in a statement, said that Malik has been arrested in a case dating back to 1987 elections which were largely seen as rigged and are believed to be responsible for fanning large-scale militancy in Kashmir.
“If so-called rulers and their authorities have any shame left, they should instead of caging resistance leaders and activists, find some courage and compete with them on political fronts,” the statement read.
Malik is the main driving force for “uniting” the already divided separatist camp against the government plans of building colonies for ex-army men and Kashmiri pandits. Since the government's plans of constructing colonies were “exposed” by a local newspaper, Kashmir Reader, the separatists issued joint statements to oppose any such plans. The separatists say the move was aimed at deeply polarising Kashmir.
Moderate Hurriyat (M) leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also under house detention, lashed out at J&K government for “worst-ever” crackdown on separatist leaders. “The way this government is behaving with us is worst-ever dictatorial approach. This government is pushing people to wall and is creating a vacuum on the ground. This shows the frustration of government and police over united approach of pro-freedom leaders of Kashmir,” he told local media.
Accusing the government of committing blunders, senior Hurriyat leader, Nayeem Khan, said that the choking of the movement of separatist leaders would further trigger public anger on ground.
“This time the approach by the government is more harsh and rigid. The fact is that the public is against the plans of establishing separate colonies for retired army men and clusters for migrant Kashmiri Pandits,” Khan said. Lashing out at the government for its policies, Hurriyat (G) Chairman, Syed Ali Geelani, who is under house arrest, said the separatists would continue to protest until government revokes its decisions.
“We will resist all such attempts aimed at turning the Muslim majority Kashmir into minority. We will register our protest till government revokes its decisions to set up separate colonies for Pandits and ex-army men,” Geelani said.
The Hurriyat Conference and JKLF have termed the government plans of building separate colonies as “nefarious designs to change the demography of the state.” They have also warned government of “serious consequences” if their leaders aren’t released before the holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Police have justified the crackdown on the Hurriyat leadership for maintaining “peace” in the Valley.
“The separatists have been taken into preventive custody to ensure that the peace is not disturbed in the Valley. Nobody will be allowed to disturb the peace,” Syed Javaid Mujtaba Geelani, the Inspector General of Police, said.
Separatists from across the different faction of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF including Shabir Shah, Ashraf Sehrai, Ghulam Nabi Shumji, Altaf Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Advocate Shahid-ul-Islam, Hilal War and Showkat Bakshi have been lodged in various police stations or kept under house detention by the police.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, cautioned the government of any decision on Pandit and Sainik Colonies.
“All the political parties and stakeholders should be taken into confidence and no unilateral decision should be taken on this sensitive issue,” Azad said.
While the Jammu and Kashmir government is in continuous denial over the allotment of the land for Sainik Colonies, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCSS) Saturday made some startled revelations about the construction of apartments in Old Air Field on the outskirts of Srinagar. JKCSS asked government to come clean on the purpose of 47 apartments blocks being constructed inside Old Air Field base.
“If it is not part of the proposed Sainik Colony, the government and the army should clarify the status of this upcoming colony inside the Old Air Field,” the JKCSS said in a statement. But CM Mehbooba has denied any settlement of non-state subjects in the Sainik Colonies by the government. “I want to make it clear that the Sainik Colonies are meant for ex-army men who are State Subjects,” she said in the Assembly last week.
On separate Pandit colonies, she said the government would set up transit accommodation to facilitate the return of migrant Pandits to the valley. Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, shared government documents about the allotment of land in the Old Airfield area for proposed Sainik Colony triggering war of words between the government and opposition.
Public anger in Kashmir is visible against the government’s move. A statewide shutdown called by separatists against the Sainik and KP Colonies on 26 May evoked strong response from the general public. Emboldened separatists are mulling to launch large-scale protests if government doesn’t revoke its orders on separate colonies.