With the arrest of Hurriyat Conference hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and most of his top aides, the Jammu and Kashmir government had presumed that the protest programmes called by the separatists would come to an end. But that has not been so.
In the past fortnight, a second-rung leader of the organisation, Masarat Alam, who heads a small constituent of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat, has emerged as a major challenge for the law-enforcing agencies and administration in the Valley.
Alam, aged around 38, has not only managed to keep the separatists’ channel of communication with people alive, but has also given cops the slip so far. A police officer said that even after nearly 100 raids across the Valley, the state police have not been able to find Alam, now the most wanted separatist in the Valley.
But top police officers downplayed Alam’s importance.
“We are looking for Alam like we are looking for a lot of other people,” said Kashmir Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmad.
A former militant of the Hizbullah, Alam was jailed for two years for several offences under the J&K Public Safety Act and released a month ago.
“Alam is trying to portray himself as Geelani’s successor by showing that he is more hardline than Geelani himself,” said a police officer on condition of anonymity.