The Centre asked the Jammu and Kashmir government Sunday to explain the release of top separatist leader Masarat Alam, who spearheaded the 2010 summer unrest that killed over 117 people in the Valley — a decision that has driven another wedge between troubled alliance partners BJP and PDP.
The state BJP condemned the release, on chief minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s orders, and said it would rather sacrifice the government — its first in the border state — than be part of such an “insult” to the nation.
Expecting trouble from the Opposition when Parliament resumes on Monday, the Union home ministry’s Kashmir division worked on Sunday to seek answers from the state on the circumstances leading to the Hurriyat hardliner walking free from Baramulla prison on Saturday. Union home secretary LC Goyal spoke to J-K DGP K Rajendra, sources said.
Alam, 42, was released after close to five years in detention as part of a state government initiative to release political prisoners facing no criminal charges.
This crisis comes even as the BJP continues its firefight against Mufti’s remarks crediting Pakistan and the separatists for peaceful conduct of assembly elections in the state.
Indicating a tough day awaited the government in the House, the Congress’ Manish Tewari demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi clear his stand, saying: “There is no difference between the Indian government’s outlook and that of Pakistan if the former did not perceive Masarat as a terrorist.”
Home minister Rajnath Singh is expected to outline the Centre’s position on the issue.
In Jammu, the BJP held a crisis meeting and demanded the “dreaded terrorist” be rearrested. “Masarat's release was wrong. We oppose it… We are ready to sacrifice 1,000 governments for the nation's pride. BJP will never compromise under any circumstances,” said MLA Ravinder Raina.
“Majority of BJP MLAs were of the opinion that the party should come out of this coalition,” added another party legislator.
In Agra, BJP leader and former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha indicated the party could withdraw support from PDP-BJP alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir over the release of Alam.
Striking a defiant note, Alam said: “Changing governments does not change the reality on the ground. It does not affect the status of J-K. Only the people can change it.”
Rejecting suggestions of a secret deal with the state, he said, “I have not been done any favours. My release is part of the judicial process. What’s the big deal? I have been in and out of jails in the last 20 years.”
“I have just been released from a smaller jail into a bigger jail. My struggle will continue,” he added.
The separatists, though, celebrated his release. “Alam is a living example that no torture, hanging or detention can cow down our sentiments. His release will give an impetus to out struggle,” said Syed Ali Geelani, head of the Hurriyat’s hardline faction.