Over two dozen people, including security personnel, were injured in Srinagar on Friday when protesters fought a pitched battle with security forces after Friday prayers over separatist leader Masarat Alam’s detention. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Alam will be sent to jail.
The Congress said the state government had acted only after the issue was raised by the media, while the BJP — an alliance partner of the PDP that governs the state — said anybody involved in anti-national activities should be punished.
Srinagar witnessed violence when stone-pelting youth battled the security forces in the Jamia Masjid area at Nowhatta in the old city. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who heads the moderate group of the Hurriyat conference, delivered the Friday sermon at the Jamia Masjid and criticised the state government for keeping separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Alam under house arrest. He demanded their immediate release.
Alam had led a reception rally on April 15 for Geelani who returned to the Valley after spending more than three months in New Delhi for health reasons. Youth surrounding Alam displayed Pakistani flags at the rally and shouted Pro-Pakistan slogans. Rajnath Singh on Friday said that those indulging in sedition will be dealt with sternly.
He told reporters in Kanpur: “Yes he (Masarat) will go to jail… Wait and watch what happens.” “I want to assure the country that the government will not compromise on the unity and integrity of the country. Sedition will not be forgiven,” said the home minister.
In New Delhi, Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad criticised the state government for what he said was delayed action on the issue. “The BJP-PDP coalition government took action against Alam, who participated in anti-India rally in the state, only after media made a hue and cry about it,” Ahmad told IANS.
“The act of separatists is totally unacceptable and the state government should have taken care in a matter like this,” he said, asking why they were given permission to hold the rally.
Minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre follows a “zero tolerance policy against terrorism and separatism”.
He added: “Nobody can get away with this impression that merely for existence in the governance or in a coalition, the BJP would be ready to compromise on any of these principles.” Ram Madhav, BJP national general secretary, said anybody involved in anti-country activities should be punished.
Alam was taken into preventive custody on Thursday to maintain law and order in the Valley, the police said. He had, however, not been served any fresh detention order under the Public Safety Act (PSA) nor was he presented before a magistrate for seeking remand by the police.
Both Alam and Geelani were taken into preventive custody in order to prevent their announced participation in a separatist rally at south Kashmir’s Tral town in Pulwama district on Friday, police said. There was tight security at Tral throughout the day.
Friday was a day of high drama as Masarat Alam was first shifted to Shaheedgunj police station in Srinagar in the morning and later to Humhama police station in central Badgam district.
Alam had also been taken into preventive custody a few days back at Awantipora town when he was on his way to Tral town where a youth had been killed in firing by security forces. He was later released.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had released Alam from preventive detention on March 7 after more than four years. He was arrested during the 2010 unrest in the Kashmir Valley and accused of inciting youth during the unrest, leading to clashes between mobs and security forces in which at least 112 people were killed.