Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has ordered the release of separatist leader Masarat Alam (42), in a move that triggered a controversy and propelled ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to launch a protest.
The Hurriyat hardliner walked free from Baramulla jail on Saturday, a day after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron initiated a process of releasing political prisoners with no criminal charges against them. Alam spearheaded a stone-pelting agitation in the Valley in 2010 and was in detention for four and a half years.
The move came days after Sayeed embarrassed the BJP by crediting Pakistan and the separatists with "peaceful conduct of polls" in the militancy-hit state, and shows that the alliance between two ideologically different parties -- PDP and BJP -- has a long distance to cover.
Muslim League leader Masrat Alam released from Baramulla jail. pic.twitter.com/uV8H93lpmo— ANI (@ANI_news) March 7, 2015
Here's a look at the political reactions to Alam's release.
BJP on warpath
The BJP youth wing on Saturday held a protest in Jammu against the release of the separatist leader. "The protest was led by the state general secretary of the BJP youth wing and I was also part of it," senior BJP leader Yudhvir Sethi said.
Terming Alam an anti-national who would further fuel militancy in J-K, the protesters demanded his immediate arrest.
"We will never tolerate the release of an anti-national leader who is a threat to the national security," a protester said.
Ravinder Raina, BJP's youth wing chief and party MLA from Nowshera, said, "Masrat Alam is a threat to national security as he is not a political prisoner but a terrorist. The BJP will never tolerate his release. If such anti-national, pro- Pakistan leaders are released, it would be very difficult to run the coalition government."
"This coalition (BJP-PDP partnership in J-K) will be in danger as we will never accept this. We will protest against the release of this anti-India leader."
Jammu: BJP workers protest against reports on Muslim league leader to be released from Baramulla Jail pic.twitter.com/tPLude1NDr— ANI (@ANI_news) March 7, 2015
Cong wants clarification
Questioning the decision of the state government, of which the BJP is a part, the Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Rajanth Singh and the RSS (BJP's ideological mentor) to clarify their stand on the release of Alam.
"The Prime Minister, Union home minister, RSS besides MoS in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh and deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, who belongs to Jammu region, should clarify their stand on the Masarat issue," Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson and MLC Ravinder Sharma said.
"We question the decision of the Mufti Sayeed government... where has BJP gone? It seems BJP has gone in to a coma or they are on ventilator after becoming part of the government," Sharma said.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, "Congress strongly condemns release of Masarat Alam, PM must answer & clarify his stand on issue to people of nation."
PDP says no controversy
Downplaying the controversy, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti told ANI, "There is no need to make such a big issue about it; people are released all the time."
Laying stress on the development of the state, she said, "We know how to work for J-K and what to do, what other people say is not our focus."
"One agenda is of reconciliation and of good governance, development. The latter won't happen without the former."
Rivals not impressed
Commenting on Alam's release, the JD(U)'s Ali Anwar said, "This shows what the result of an unholy and opportunistic alliance could be."
Casting doubt on the BJP-PDP tie-up, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury said, "... this raises question on how long this coalition government will continue?"
Alam puts up a brave face
The separatist leader told ANI, "I have spent most of the time in jails since my childhood, will not be a big deal if I get arrested again."
"The reality on the ground doesn't change with the change in governments... I'm feeling relaxed, spending time with my family, It's just a normal release, has been done in a legal way"