JKLF chief Yaseen Malik, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders detained amid speculations of wider crackdown on separatists in J&K

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yaseen Malik was detained on Friday night amid indications of a wider crackdown on separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police also detained Jamaat-e-Islami members on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, and detained around two dozen of its cadres, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, officials said in Srinagar.

Police and paramilitary forces have been put on high alert but there was no confirmation about any more detentions.

JKLF chief Yaseen Malik, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders detained amid speculations of wider crackdown on separatists in J&K

File image of JKLF chief Yaseen Malik. ANI

Though police termed the detentions as routine, officials privy to the developments said this is the first major crackdown on the organisation that is part of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a separatist conglomerate.

The Jamaat issued a statement condemning the detentions and said "...The move is a well-designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region."

It claimed that during the intervening night of 22 and 23 February, police and other agencies launched a mass arrest drive and raided many houses in the Valley, wherein dozens of its central and district level leaders were arrested, including its Ameer (chief) Jamaat Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz and advocate Zahid Ali (spokesperson). The Jamaat leaders were picked up from various places, including Anantnag, Pahalgham, Dialgam, Tral — all in south Kashmir.

The Jamaat termed the raids as "fishy" at a time when the Supreme Court is to hear a petition regarding Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. "...The way forces personnel unleashed the spree of mass arrest and detained dozens of Jamaat members prior to the hearing seems something is hatching behind the curtains. Any attempt of eroding or tampering Article 35A is unacceptable for people of Jammu and Kashmir," it said.

The decision comes ahead of a crucial hearing on Article 370 in the Supreme Court. The article provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The action also comes eight days after a terror attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad on a convoy in Pulwama district in which at least 42 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel lost their lives.

Additionally, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has withdrawn security of 18 separatists and 155 political persons, including Malik, officials said.

A security review meeting, which was held under the chairmanship of state chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, took the decision as it was felt that providing security to these separatist leaders is a "wastage" of scarce state resources which could be better utilised elsewhere.

Among the leaders whose security has been downgraded and/or withdrawn are Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Aga Syed Mosvi, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Saleem Geelani, Shahid ul Islam, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Farooq Ahmed Kichloo, Masroor Abbas Ansari, Aga Syed Abul Hussain, Abdul Gani Shah and Mohd Musadiq Bhat.

This is in addition to the four separatists whose security was withdrawn earlier.

The security of 155 political persons and activists, who did not require the security provided to them based on their threat assessment and their activities, was also withdrawn.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2019 11:27:39 IST

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