Hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam’s supporters waved Pakistani flags and shouted anti-India slogans during a rally in support of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani in Srinagar on Wednesday.
Alam, released from jail last month, marched with his supporters towards Geelani’s home when the chairman of the hardline Hurriyat faction returned from Delhi after four months.
Footage on television showed 47-year-old Alam, projected as a likely successor to Geelani, ringed by several men carrying Pakistani flags. They shouted slogans against India and in support of independence.
Officials registered an FIR at Budgam police station against Geelani, Alam, Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah and other separatist leaders for their “provocative activities” and for hoisting the Pakistani flag in Hyderpora. The FIR was filed under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and RPC.
Some people who were part of the crowd organised by Geelani and the others pelted stones on CRPF vehicles though security personnel exercised restraint to safeguard the lives of people.
Geelani tore into the Jammu and Kashmir government and accused the RSS of plotting against the Kashmir Valley as hundreds of his supporters too waved Pakistani flags and shouted pro-Islamabad slogans.
He said the Centre’s plan of composite townships for displaced Kashmiri Pandits was unacceptable as his speech was simultaneously broadcast in Islamabad and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad.
“The grim fact remains that those who have Muslims’ blood on their hands are being elected as prime minister and ministers in New Delhi,” the 84-year-old leader told cheering supporters.
As Geelani returning from Delhi, authorities didn’t detain the separatist or place him under house arrest, breaking from past practice. Instead, security forces allowed his supporters to escort him in a cavalcade from the airport to his residence, a distance of almost two kilometres.
During the procession, Geelani’s confidante and Muslim League chief Masarat Alam shouted several slogans.
Alam’s release in March drove a wedge between alliance partners Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP.
Geelani said: “This government intends to strengthen status quo in Jammu and Kashmir. We will break the status quo and fight against illegal occupation. Our struggle will continue till implementation of United Nations resolutions on the state.”
He called for a protest march towards Tral in south Kashmir, where the brother of a Hizbul Mujahideen commander was killed in an army operation two days ago.
Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed described the incident as “unfortunate” and asked the army to be more cautious in future.
Geelani added: “We will make the people of Kashmir aware about Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s designs on Kashmir. Pandit townships, also an RSS game plan, are unacceptable to us.
“Let the government pay them (displaced Pandits) Rs 30 lakh per family instead of Rs 20 lakh but they should return to their older localities only.”
Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said: “Our representatives and people of Jammu and Kashmir living there participated in these two gatherings held in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad. Geelani’s speech was broadcast to them live.”
Experts believe the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference has gained in strength in recent months with several parties, which were members of the moderate faction of the separatist grouping, lining up under Geelani’s leadership.
The BJP asked its ally PDP to take immediate action against separatist leaders like Masarat Alam, failing which it said that consequences” would follow.
“This is unacceptable. We demand immediate action against Alam and the others who were involved in today’s rally. There can be no leniency on this, this is clearly a major aberration and we expect PDP to take action.
“If corrective action is not taken… If PDP does not conform to expected notes (sic) of BJP and the Centre, consequences would follow,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.