Police on Thursday swooped on the leaders of Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference and arrested five of them including acting Chairman Ghulam Nabbi Sumjhi from a local hotel where they had gathered to address a press conference.
The Hurriyat leaders and their supporters shouted anti- government slogans while they were being whisked away by the police. Masarat Alam, Firdous Ahmad Shah, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Merajuddin Kalwal were among other laders arrested on the occasion.
The Hurriyat had called a press conference in the hotel at 12.30pm. A Hurriyat spokesperson said that the press conference was arranged to express concern and protest against the demolition of a mosque at the Hariparbat Fort allegedly by the government. "We were also to announce that the Hurriyat would reconstruct the mosque on our own", he said.
As the media persons reached the hotel, they saw large contingent of police deployed around the hotel. "We are here to arrest Syed Ali Geelani", whispered a middle-rung police officer when asked.
The picture which was likely to emerge tempted photojournalists and cameramen present on the scene to brace up for capturing it in their cameras. However as Geelani did not turn up, the presence of police begin to thin out. Masarat Alam, chairman of Mulsim League and a senior colleague of Geelani showed up from the window of the hotel asking media-persons to come inside for the press conference.
As Ghulam Nabbi Sumjhi started his introductory remarks, a police party stormed the hotel and took Sumjhi and his four other colleagues present on the occasion into custody. The Hurriyat leaders did not resist the police action but shouted slogans against the government. "This is the democracy of India. We are deprived from even talking to press people", shouted Masarat Alam. Other Hurriyat functionaries joined Masarat in "condemning the government" and shouted slogans.
The police action provoked strong resentment from the Hurriyat faction. Senior leader and general secretary of Geelani's Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Ashraf Saharai and Dakhtaran-e-Millat chief Syedah Asiya Andrabi described the police action as an attempt to "muzzle the voice of Kashmiri people". Addressing a press conference called at Geelani's Hyderpora residence, a portion of which also serves as the office of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the two senior separatist stalwarts drew contours of the arrest with the amalgam's April-22 massive public rally in Srinagar, and said "the unprecedented participation of people in the rally and their love for Syed Ali Geelani has frustrated the government". "They (government) are now trying to bully us by using coercive and oppressive methods to silence his voice". "With or without Geelani, the movement will continue against all odds", said Sahrai.
Police registered under unlaw activities act against Geelani and his associates for holding the rally without proper permission from the government.