The firebrand chief of an all-women Kashmiri separatist group, Asiya Andrabi, faced arrest after being named for unlawful activities in a police complaint on Wednesday as she and her supporters celebrated Pakistan Day in the Kashmir Valley this week.
Andrabi and burqa-clad activists of her radical group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, meaning Daughters of Faith, were accused of organising functions across Srinagar and districts in the Valley, singing the Pakistani national anthem and hoisting the Islamic republic’s flag last Monday.
Police sources said an FIR against the leading woman’s face of Kashmir’s Islamist movement was registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and she could be jailed for up to seven years, if found guilty.
“For the past 35 years, I have been celebrating August 14 and March 23 (Pakistan’s independence and republic days). There was nothing new in what I did recently. If it’s a crime, I will do it repeatedly until the Kashmir dispute is resolved. I hoisted the Pakistani flag on disputed territory (Kashmir) and not on Indian land,” Andrabi told the Hindustan Times. “I am already facing a number of FIRs.”
Her imprisoned husband, Muhammad Qasim Faktoo, released a book — titled Pakistan: Naguzeer Tha — from jail on the occasion. He is serving a life term for his role in the murder of human rights activist lawyer HN Wanchoo in 1992.
Andrabi is not new to anti-India charges; she was arrested in 2010 for waging war against the country and inciting violence.
A follower of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Andrabi said similar charges should be slapped on Union minister Gen (retired) VK Singh for attending the Pakistan Day party hosted by high commissioner Abdul Basit in Delhi.
“If celebrating Pakistan Day is a crime, then book Singh, too. He was standing in front of the Pakistani flag and must have heard the anthem, too,” she said.
Andrabi was not the lone separatist leader to celebrate Pakistan’s republic day. Both Hurriyat faction chiefs —Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq — and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yaseen Mallik also attended high commissioner Basit’s dinner.
Police didn’t confirm if there was any administrative decision to take action against the more than a dozen separatists who were guests at Basit’s party.
Political parties welcomed Jammu and Kashmir police’s FIR against Andrabi, calling her actions a case of sedition. “The case has rightly been registered against her. It is a straight case of sedition,” BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said.
Congress leader PL Punia said the case against Andrabi was the first since the PDP-BJP government was formed in Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistan has always supported these separatist elements and we welcome the filing of an FIR against Andrabi. I am glad that after the Sayeed government came to power, it has finally started prosecuting some separatists, otherwise they seemed to be releasing everyone.”
(With inputs from agencies)