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Documents put both Congress and BJP in dock over Masarat Alam release

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani: In a new twist, the controversial release of separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat in Jammu and Kashmir is set to embarrass both the Congress and the central government. Documents reveal that his release process was initiated by previous National Conference (NC)-Congress government in September 2014, prior to elections, and was finally approved by the governor N N Vohra’s administration in February 2014. The letters exchanged between the district magistrate of Jammu and additional secretary home of Jammu and Kashmir accessed by dna go contrary to both prime minister Narendra Modi as well home minister Rajnath Singh’s assertion that the Centre was unaware of the development as its consent was not sought. The state was under central rule between January 10 and March 1, in the wake of hung verdict thrown by elections.

The Congress was also scurrying for cover on Tuesday, after it surfaced that the process had started from September 15, 2014 during their rule. Sources in the J&K government say, the process got stalled as massive floods swept Kashmir Valley, paralysing the administration. The party also lowered its rhetoric and attack on government following disapproval to its stand by its Jammu and Kashmir unit. First to disapprove party’s stand was its senior leader Prof Saifudin Soz, pleading that the PDP-BJP combine headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed should be given time.

The documents reveal the separatist leader was rather languishing in jail despite disapproval of his detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) as back as on February 4 during central rule. All that chief minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed did last weekend was to set him free from the “illegal detention”, top state government official told dna. But they did not explain, why Mufti did not exercise the choice to re-detain him under the preventive detention law, Public Safety Act (PSA) as had been happening with him for the last four and a half years.

The J&K government had refused to approve the Jammu district magistrate’s request on December 9, 2014 for approval of Bhat’s detention on the ground that the detention order was received in the home department after 23 days, violating the Supreme Court’s time-limit for government’s approval of such detentions.

The district magistrate of Jammu passed the order on Saturday, directing the senior superintendent of police to release Bhat in view of the February 4 communication of the principal secretary of home department in J&K government “whereunder the order of preventive detention of Masarat Alam Bhatt s/o Abdul Majid Bhatt, R/o Zainadar Mohall, Srinagar has not been approved by the government. He asked the SSP to “release the detenue if not released as yet and communicate action taken to the Principal Secretary to Govt Home Department J&K accordingly.”

The home department’s additional secretary had quoted the department of law, justice and parliamentary affairs on the Supreme Court ruling, stating that “the period of 12 days in the instant case has already lapsed; as such, the detention order has become non-est in the eyes of law” and suggesting that a fresh order can be still issued to detain Bhat following the procedure prescribed in the Act and directions of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, former interlocutor and Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group Convener, M M Ansari assailed both the BJP and Congress for playing politics over the release of separatist leader “BJP and Congress want to have cake and eat it too. They are trying to be hypocritical on the whole issue (Masrat’s release). They are trying to please their constituencies both in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country,” he said. On former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s assertions over Masrat’s release, he said, “If Omar says Masrat Alam was responsible for the killings, why didn’t he charge sheet him? Why did he not take any action against him? I think he is trying to save his skin.”

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