Supporters of hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani waved Pakistani flags during a rally in the volatile town of Tral in south Kashmir on Friday, about a fortnight after authorities booked separatist leaders for a similar occurrence at a protest in Srinagar.
Photos of the rally in Tral, 45 km from Srinagar, showed several persons, including some who flanked Geelani, waving Pakistani flags.
Geelani, 85, gave the slip to the security establishment and addressed the rally. The hardline leader has remained mostly under house arrest since his supporters waved Pakistani flags and shouted pro-Pakistan slogans at a rally in Srinagar on April 15. Geelani and his aide Masarat Alam were booked after that rally.
He is believed to have left his residence at Hyder Pora in Srinagar before sunrise to avoid security restrictions.
A Pakistan flag was also seen flattering inside the Tral Jamia Masjid, where Geelani addressed supporters after Friday prayers. Several supporters also shouted pro-Pakistan slogans.
Appealing to people to strengthen the “freedom struggle”, Geelani warned against extending the duration of the Amarnath Yatra. “The yatra should be either for 15 days or up to a month. It should not be beyond that,” he said.
He reiterated his opposition to the setting up of separate townships to house Kashmiri Pandits displaced by the militant violence of the 1990s.
“We welcome Pandits to their home and hearth but won’t allow townships...We are not opposed to any religion but any ploy to change demographics in Kashmir will be foiled,” said Geelani.
He criticised chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, saying: “Sayeed is a powerless puppet. His threads are pulled in New Delhi. The statements like turning Gulmarh into India’s Davos only expose him.”
Geelani met the family of Khalid Muzaffar, the brother of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in a controversial army operation in Tral on April 14. The youngster’s death had triggered violent protests in the area.
In the past, several attempts by Geelani to visit Tral were foiled by the state government.