As Srinagar rages over Masarat Alam's arrest, Sayeed's plan for separatists seems doomed

Srinagar: After the controversy over the 'pro-Pakistan' rally held in Srinagar on Wednesday, the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Friday arrested Masarat Alam Bhat, co-founder of the Muslim League, on charges of indulging in subversive activities.

Alam has defended his actions saying it wouldn't deter them from their goal.

“It was a normal rally. This is not the first time that boys were raising pro-Pakistan slogans or had a Pakistani flag in their hands. It has been happening here since decades. I did not raise the flag. If they want to arrest me for that, let them do it,” Alam told Firstpost on Friday, moments before he was arrested by police from his Srinagar residence.

“The state has been using force against us for decades but it will not deter us from fighting for our goal. For us there is no difference in who is in the government. They are all same," he added.

Alam's arrest has sparked anger in Kashmir. AFP image

Alam's arrest has sparked anger in Kashmir. AFP image

The arrest made on Friday morning is seen as a major setback to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's initiative of "battle of ideas" which aimed to make separatism and separatists irrelevant in Kashmir by following the path of dialogue and reconciliation with them.

Alam, the architect of civilian unrest in the Valley in 2010 which left more than hundred people dead, was booked along with Syed Geelani and Peer Saifullah under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for “provocative activities and hoisting of Pakistani flags.” On Wednesday, Alam organised a rally in Hyderpora in which more than 3000 people, mostly Kashmiri youth including school children, participated and raised slogans in favour of Alam.

Alam had then reportedly shouted slogans like, “Kashmir Banega...." to which the youth responded with cries of “Pakistan”. He also shouted slogans like “Jeevay, Jeevay Pakistan (Long live Pakistan)" at the rally which sparked a furore, following which the Jammu and Kashmir police filed a case against him.

Under pressure from the Centre, the state government gave a go-ahead for the arrest of Alam ahead of his scheduled visit to the Tral area of south Kashmir. Geelani along with other Hurriyat leaders who were to join him have been put under house arrest. The visit was to protest the killing of 25-year-old Khalid Muzaffar Wani, brother of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, which locals have alleged was a "custodial killing."

This comes after the chief minister had earlier directed the Kashmir police on 4 March to initiate a process to release all political prisoners against whom no criminal charges are registered.

Although Alam's release was not ordered by the PDP-BJP government in the state, the PDP had attempted to extract political mileage out of it. But after the arrest of Alam, the issue seems to have backfired on them. On Thursday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had phoned Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who assured him of action against those involved in 'anti-national activities' during the rally.

Social media was full of people ridiculing the Sayeed-led government for not standing up to promises made to the electorate.

"What happened to Mufti's battle of ideas? Where is Mufti’s democracy? It is democracy, Indian ISHTAYLE,” Kamran Sayeed wrote on his Facebook page.

As Alam was being taken into custody, many gathered outside his home.

“What happened to Mufti who used to say democracy is a battle of ideas and it should not be held hostage to the agreements or disagreements on issues," Irfan Malik, a sociology scholar in Kashmir University said outside Alam’s residence in Srinagar.

There is anger on the streets of Srinagar following the arrest of Alam against Sayeed for allowing the Centre to 'dictate' terms to the state government with people accusing the PDP patriarch of being a "puppet" Chief Minister installed by the New Delhi in Kashmir.

However, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, President of youth wing of the PDP told Firstpost that they hadn't arrested Alam under pressure from the Centre.

“It is all about procedure, not about pressure. Jammu and Kashmir police works under a system. They thought it as proper to arrest him and they did that. The law took will its own course. But jails can't be solution to any problem. There was a cognizable offense against him and law took its own course,” Parra told Firstpost.

No one's buying the ruling party's explanation though.

"The message that comes out of this case is clear; that in Kashmir, it doesn't matter whether PDP, which came on the promise of change, is in power, or National Conference led by Omar Abdullah. By arresting Alam, the PDP led government has exposed its own vulnerabilities and that the real power lies in the hands of New Delhi. The chief minister may say that this is the law taking its due course but then there are many cases registered against Army and policemen for rights abuses, why doesn't 'law take its own course' in those cases as well?" Srinagar based journalist Jehangir Ali told Firstpost.

"Peoples Democratic Party has bowed before BJP and they want to choke the voices of dissent. Even if India says there is democracy in Kashmir, is this democracy? It is a dictatorship where media and so called civil society is allowed to issue diktats,” Tariq Hameed, a shopkeeper said in Srinagar's Lal Chowk.

Updated Date: Apr 18, 2015 09:11 AM

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