Separatists on Sunday welcomed the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led PDP-BJP government's decision to release hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam (42), who has pledged to carry forward "struggle", while the Congress slammed the move.
After spending 56 months in jail since 2010 and facing six Public Safety Acts for "waging war" and "fomenting trouble", with 15 open FIRs over his fiery speeches and street protests, Alam, said, "I have been released from a smaller jail into the bigger jail. My struggle will continue".
Alam is tipped to succeed ailing hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, who welcomed his
release. "Alam is a living example that no torture, no hanging or detention can cow down our sentiments. His release will give an impetus to our struggle," said 84-year-old Geelani, while demanding release of all prisoners in and outside the state, who, according to him, have been falsely implicated.
Geelani also hailed Alam's role for the 2010 street agitation, which lasted more than five months. He sent a high-level delegation to Muslim League chief Alam's Srinagar house to congratulate the family. Alam's party is a constituent of hardline Hurriyat.
Ironically, independent legislator Engineer Rashid also welcomed Alam's release. "Who doesn't know that Alam was put behind the bars in gross violation of human rights. Jammu & Kashmir is a disputed territory and whosoever, including Alam, talks of its resolution cannot be labelled as an anti-national or anti-Indian but good Indians should appreciate those voices who want Kashmir dispute to be resolved," said MLA Rashid.
Rashid accused former chief minister Omar Abdullah of scoring points. "Omar should answer why he didn't release Alam, Qasim Faktoo and others during his tenure despite claiming his coalition partner Congress to be more secular and Kashmir friendly," he added.
Omar on Saturday justified Alam's prolonged detention.
Meanwhile, Amritsar-based Dal Khalsa also welcomed Alam's release. "Alam's release was long due as his detention was illegal. The Punjab government should also show magnanimity and release all political prisoners," said party spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh.
In New Delhi, the Congress criticised the release and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clear his stand on the issue. "There is no difference between the Indian government's outlook and that of Pakistan's if the former did not perceive Masarat as a terrorist," Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
"The fundamental question which the Prime Minister should answer is Masarat Alam a political prisoner or a terrorist? If he is a political prisoner then, that it is precisely what Pakistan also says, then what is the difference between our government and Pakistan?" Tewari reportedly said.