Hurriyat’s new chief was allegedly master of the “summer unrest” in Valley in 2010

9th September 2021

9th September 2021

Masarat Alam

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had taken oath as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the second time on March 1, 2015. He was then heading a coalition government in which junior partner was the BJP. On the very first day of his office, within hours, a controversy erupted when Mufti thanked Pakistan at his first press conference for not disrupting the 2014 polls!

The second controversy of significant consequence was the release order issued by the home department in favour of Masarat Alam. The order had come within a week of Mufti taking charge. The order was criticised by senior BJP leaders, both in private and openly, for it went against their avowed stand of coming down hard on secessionists and separatists. It caused bitterness between the PDP and the BJP, but also served to alert the latter’s central leadership about Mufti’s agenda.

Alam’s freedom, courtesy PDP then, did not last long and he was arrested again to be put behind bars. Like Geelani, Alam is considered close to Pakistani Deep State, particularly spy agency ISI. In all, there are more than two dozen criminal cases filed against Alam and he seems to be destined to do a long stint in jail for now. 

Be that as it may, Masarat Alam has now been appointed as interim chairman of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference. The appointment was necessitated by the death of SAS Geelani who was declared as lifetime chairman by this faction. Geelani had announced his disassociation from the Hurriyat last year. Despite that the Hurriyat faction had not accepted it. Alam was the founder of Muslim League, a constituent of the Hurriyat.

Geelani’s confidante, and his designated successor was Ashraf Sehrai, but he died of corona infection while in custody on May 5, 2021, at GMC, Jammu. Sehrai had been elected chairman after Geelani had left office due to illness. One of his sons, Junaid Sehrai (alias Zafar-Islam) was a commander of the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen. Junaid was killed in an encounter in Srinagar in May 2020.

Sehrai was associated with Jamaat e Islami, an organisation that has been declared unlawful now. It was on February 28, 2019, that the Jamaat was declared unlawful by the Centre for five years for ``activities prejudicial to internal security and public order’’. Jamaat in Kashmir is considered the parent organisation of HM and most of its cadres are drawn from it.

The new Hurriyat interim chief is presently in jail and was jailed many times in the past too. The Jammu & Kashmir High Court had released Alam at least six times before March 2015 but he was always re-arrested by being slapped with fresh charges by the police. When Alam’s release had led to a furore in Parliament in March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the Lok Sabha that the Central government had not been consulted by Mufti on the issue. He had also said that clarification had been sought on the Alam release issue.

Several PDP leaders had then said that releasing Alam was a part of their ``reconciliation process’’ and not against law. Something that the coalition partner BJP differed with. Alam’s release and many such policy differences had laid firm foundations of the parting of ways between PDP and the BJP which happened in June 2018.

Incidentally, Alam had come to limelight in 2010 as he was held responsible by the security agencies for fomenting many acts which were collectively known as ``summer unrest’’. In all, about 120 people (between June and September that year) had lost their lives in Kashmir at that time when stone-pelting became rampant. He is reported to have orchestrated these protests aimed at destabilising Omar Abdullah’s government. Omar was then CM of a National Conference-Congress alliance government in J&K.

Sant Kumar Sharma, a seasoned journalist, is an authority on Jammu and Kashmir. Two of his books on Article 370 and Delimitation are already out. The third one on Indus Waters Treaty is now out and could be bought here.

Sant began as a teacher but after six years, joined the Indian Express, Chandigarh in 1990, the year when terrorism was taking its first step in J & K and soon there would be exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He subsequently worked for The Statesman, The Times of India and Star News among others. He is based in Jammu since May 2000.

He edits, a newspaper from Jammu presently.


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