Recently-released hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam's absence at the Pakistan Day function organised by neighbouring country's envoy in New Delhi might have raised questions over his ideaology, but Alam claims it was a viral infection which kept him from attending the dinner.
"I had received the invitation from the Pakistan High Commission, but I had severe chest congestion and viral infection which kept me away," Alam told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
The 42-year-old hardliner, who heads the Muslim League, a constituent of the hardline Hurriyat, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said that media should not read too much into his absence and "not attending a dinner does not mean anything".
"Not attending a dinner does not change my ideology. I am what I have been for years," he insisted.
Though reports had suggested that Alam is more in support of an 'independent Kashmir', he insisted that Geelani remains his "leader"'. Geelani has been a pro-Pakistan separatist, while others like chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and jammu and Kashmir (JKLF) chairman Yaseen Mallik have been insisting on a solution "according to the aspirations of people of Kashmir".
Alam's recent release from jail led to a political storm as two alliance partners in Jammu and Kashmir government --the PDP and BJP -- were seen on the opposite sides of the divide. While the PDP maintained that Alam's further detention was illegal, the BJP expressed anguish over not being consulted.
Alam, who has spent almost 17 years in jail, is believed to have played a pivotal role during the 2010 street protests.
The Pakistan Day function at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi was attended by other separatist leaders, including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar and Mohd Yasin Malik. Mirwaiz also held a separate meeting with Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit.