Masarat Alam vows to pursue separatist struggle with renewed vigour

New Delhi(PTI): Inside a small room, a stream of people jostles to shake hands with Masarat Alam Bhat who sits quietly on a pillow. Face of 2010 `azadi’ groundswell, Bhat, who was released by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP-BJP government on Saturday, ensures that he personally greets the visitors with warmth. Minutes later, the room turns into a separatist platform ‘azadi’ speeches renting the air.

Unfazed by the 53 months of detention, Bhat, who heads J&K Muslim League, vowed to embark on the separatist resistance with renewed vigour to achieve the goal for ‘azadi’. For Bhat, Mufti government has done no favour and his release was ‘effected after a due process of law’.

“I was not done any favour. I was released after a due process of law. Public Safety Act (PSA) was slapped on me six times, and every time these were quashed. I believe that I have come to a bigger jail from a smaller jail,” Bhat told dna.

A former commander of Hizbullah, Bhat had become a separatist cult-figure in 2010 when he led the agitation from underground and launched “Quit Kashmir” movement giving sleepless nights to the police before he was arrested in October 2010. Around 120 people were killed mostly in the security forces firing on the stone pelting mobs in 2010.

A resident of Zaindar Moholla Srinagar, Bhat had served more than nine years in jail at different intervals from 1987 to 2010. Touted as successor to Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Bhat first shot into fame first in 2003 when Hurriyat Conference spilt and he became the interim head of Geelani-led faction. When Geelani took over the reins of hard-line Hurriyat faction, Bhat again slipped into oblivion. The big moment came in 2008 Amarnath land row when he was nominated spokesman of the Coordination Committee of both factions of the Hurriyat, which became the reason for his arrest under PSA.

“We will sit again and chalk out the strategy for future. Whatever is necessary for taking this movement forward. Let me tell you that we will not be cowed down and struggle will continue till we achieve our goal of azadi,” he said.

Ask him about the people’s snub to separatists when they came out in huge numbers to vote, Bhat said they need to analyze why the situation reached to that pass. “We are confident that people are with this movement. But we need to analyse why people voted. We need to introspect on this issue. India is using this voting turnout as a propaganda tool”, he said.

It is these statements which are sending a worrying signal to mainstream leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. From BJP to Congress to National Conference, the political parties are keeping their fingers crossed.

“So either Alam has turned a new leaf & done a deal with Mufti Syed or he will go back to organising trouble in the valley. Time will tell”, tweeted Omar Abdullah, former chief minister.

Omar also justified Bhat’s detention in 2010 saying his arrest saved lives. “Yes, my govt detained Masarat Alam & we kept him out of circulation. Detention isn’t ideal but difficult situations have to be tackled. Alam was the chief architect of the 2010 protests. It’s not a coincidence that the protests died out after his hard won detention”, he said

Protests also rocked Jammu with both BJP and Congress separately agitating against the release of Bhat. “Mufti-led government has freed a separatist who is a threat to the national security as he is not a political prisoner but a terrorist. If such anti-national, pro- Pakistan leaders are released, youth congress will continue its protest till the Prime Minister does not give a satisfactory reply on the matter,” said Shahnawaz Choudhary, state president of Youth Congress.

BJP, which is an ally of PDP said by releasing Masarat Alam Bhat, the mastermind of the intifada and communal polarization, Chief Minister is plunging the state into the darkness of communalism. “Chief Minister and his advisors are working as the facilitators of the enemy who want to balkanize India”, said Ravinder Raina, state President Bharatiya Janta Youva Morcha.