Masarat Alam: Kashmir's separatist bogeyman
The ruling PDP-BJP coalition is loathe to let him off after the debilitating political fallout of his release in March last year. Besides, the government doesn�t want a separatist rabble-rouser on the loose just at the time when the Valley is on the rebound from the bruising five month long unrest.
Recently, the J&K High Court quashed the 34th Public Safety Act of the major separatist leader and the perceived architect of the 2010 unrest Masarat Alam Bhat and ordered his immediate release. On Thursday, he was briefly released from jail but promptly re-arrested and likely to be slapped with another PSA.
According to the new order, Alam has been accused of making the current unrest "successful" when actually he was in custody of the state authorities.
The order was passed on the basis of Alam’s meeting on August 11 with four persons who visited him at District Jail, Baramulla. A case was registered against Alam at police station Baramulla on August 30,
The ruling PDP-BJP coalition is loathe to let him off after the debilitating political fallout of his release in March last year. Besides, the government doesn’t want a separatist rabble-rouser on the loose just at the time when the Valley is on the rebound from the bruising five month long unrest.
Alam has so far spent 17 years in prison and except for a fortnight’s release in 2015, he has been undergoing continuous imprisonment since last six years. The government has resorted to successive use of PSA to keep him behind bars. More so after 2010 strife, when he was widely perceived to be organizing the protests. Overall, he has been charged in 49 cases.
He is also credited to have invented the weekly protest calendar containing the elaborate schedule for hartals and protests, which Hurriyat dusted off and put to use again this summer. Of course, now championed also by moderate separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik who in 2010 had stayed short of endorsing it.
However, while Alam is a hardliner like Syed Ali Geelani, his boss in the Hurriyat G, of which his party Muslim League is an important constituent, much of his ‘terror persona’ is myth and a media creation. Until his role in 2010 unrest, Alam was a middling leader, much lower in ranking than Mirwaiz, Malik or for that matter Shabir Shah, Bilal Lone and Prof Abdul Gani Bhat. But he rose to fame through the five month long 2010 unrest which he is believed to have organized by creating well-knit networks of the stone-throwing youth and issuing weeklong hartal calendars. However, Alam was arrested midway through the strife, a development which did little to quell the protests but made him the most popular separatist at the time.
Ever since Alam has grown in stature as a separatist leader, threatening also to upstage the established Hurriyat leaders. But while his hardline has been a point of concern with the government, Alam’s politics carries a dash of rationalism too. For instance, he is strictly against any truck of Kashmiri separatist struggle with the jihadist or Islamist movements in other parts of the world, including Pakistan.
“My idea of a Kashmir struggle is confined within the frontiers of Jammu and Kashmir. Whatever goes on outside J&K is none of our concern,” Alam told media last year adding that he had once declined an offer from some Muslim leaders from the rest of the country to raise the issues of Muslims of India. “Ours is a political struggle, not religious. Kashmir problem is essentially an issue of the people of the state”.
But the state government is unlikely to release him, preferring rather to stave off an avoidable controversy and any attendant issue with his release. Though going by its middle-ground politics PDP will have no objection to the release, the BJP is dead against any such move, fearing its fallout on its image at the national level, more so with elections looming in UP and Punjab.
“We can’t undertake any such risk at this sensitive time,” said a PDP leader. “We can’t let go situation back to square one after taking so long to reign it in”.