In a decision likely to irk alliance partner BJP, J&K chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ordered the release of top separatist leader Masrat Alam, who spearheaded the stone-pelting agitation in the Valley in 2010, after four-and-a-half years in detention.
The Hurriyat hardliner, 42, walked free from Baramulla jail on Saturday, a day after the PDP patron initiated a process of releasing political prisoners with no criminal charges against them. Some PDP leaders also reportedly met aides of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads the Hurriyat’s hardline faction.
The move came days after Sayeed embarrassed the BJP by crediting Pakistan and the separatists with “peaceful conduct of polls”.
“To say Alam wasn’t charged is a blatant untruth,” tweeted former CM Omar Abdullah. “Alam’s detention saved lives and allowed smother, safer… elections, so I have no regrets.”
Alam — seen as second only to Geelani prior to his detention — had been behind bars since October 18, 2010 when he was booked for allegedly “leading protests” against security forces that left over 117 dead.
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP youth held a protest against the release of the top separatist leader even as the Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajanth Singh and RSS to clarify their stand on the release of Alam.
"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 Masarat Alam as an anti-national who would further fuel militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, 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.
He said the youth wing of the party would increase its agitation in the days to come if chief minster Mufti Sayeed does not order the re-arrest of Alam.
Meanwhile, questioning the decision of the BJP-PDP state government to release the separatist leader instrumental in triggering 2010 stone pelting agitation, the Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Rajanth Singh and RSS to clarify their stand on release of Masarat.
"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 Spokesman and MLC Ravinder Sharma said.
"We question the decision of the Mufti Sayeed government, of whose BJP is coalition partner... where is BJP gone. It seems BJP has gone in coma or they are on ventilator after becoming part of the government," Sharma said.
With inputs from agencies