Protests continue in Jammu over Masrat Alam’s release
Jammu, March 8
Protests by BJP, a ruling coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir, and the opposition Congress continued here on Sunday against the release of separatist leader Masrat Alam by Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s government.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers staged a protest here and in the border district of Poonch against Alam’s release.
Protesting BJP workers demanded immediate re-arrest of the released separatist, impressing on its central leadership of the party that such a move by the state government would erode the BJP’s base and credibility among people.
Opposition Congress party workers, led by its state president G.A. Mir, staged another protest against the government’s decision in Jammu.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has defended the decision, saying that the chief minister, who also holds the home department portfolio, knows what is in the best interest of security and peace in the state.
“As the chief minister also holds the home portfolio in the state, the ruckus against Mufti sahib’s decision to release Masrat Alam is uncalled for,” said PDP president and Parliament member Mehbooba Mufti.
Senior PDP minister and the party’s chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar said there was a Supreme Court of India decision delivered in 2013 directing the state government not to arrest Masrat Alam under the same sections of the criminial procedure coded (CrPc) repeatedly.
“Successive state governments have been violating the apex court’s direction in this regard and we have only followed the original order in this regard.“Honourable Supreme Court had also directed the state government not to arrest Masrat Alam without furnishing the reasons for such arrest to the apex court,” Akhtar said.
The BJP workers are miffed about the PDP’s assertion that releasing the separatist leader was part of the common minimum programme between the BJP and the PDP which included an agreement on addressing divergent viewpoints in the state.
Though the PDP is defending the decision, the BJP ministers in the coalition government are refraining from making public comment on the development.
Alam was arrested in October 2010 at the height of the unrest in Kashmir in which 112 people were killed in clashes between the security forces and unruly mobs.
Masrat Alam spearheaded the 2010 unrest by making highly inflammatory speeches and issuing programmes for protests which paralysed normal life in Kashmir for over six months.
The National Conference-led Jammu and Kashmir government had set a Rs.10,00,000 award for Alam’s arrest.
Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and National Conference leader, has said he stands by his government’s decision to arrest Alam.
He said the 2010 unrest had died down immediately after Alam was arrested.
The former chief minister asserted that there was no agitation in Kashmir after Afzal Guru’s execution because Alam was behind bars at that time.