J-K: Masarat Alam slapped with stringent act, shifted to Jammu jail
The Jammu and Kashmir government has slapped the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam.
Senior police officials confirmed the development and said Alam was shifted to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu from Budgam on Wednesday night.
Alam is facing sedition charges for taking part at a rally in Srinagar on April 15 where some participants allegedly unfurled Pakistani flags and raised slogans. This is the seventh time PSA has been slapped on Alam. A person booked under PSA can be detained without court appearance for two years.
Television footage showed 47-year-old Alam, ringed by several men carrying Pakistani flags, at the rally. They shouted slogans against India and in support of independence.
On Wednesday, the hearing on Alam's bail plea was completed. The separatist leader was arrested on April 18 and sent to seven-day police custody. After hearing the arguments from both sides, a chief judicial magistrate reserved the order for April 25.
Lawyers of the imprisoned hardliner argued that "Alam represented a sentiment and an ideology prevalent in the state" and cannot be denied a peaceful political space.
The defence referred to a high court judgment passed in 1983 by a state judge where it was held that “unfurling Pakistan flag is not criminal”.
For his part, Alam had earlier denied waving a Pakistani flag at the rally, but said it was a representation of the feelings, aspirations and sentiments of the people across Kashmir.
Alam, who comes from a middle-class family, studied in Kashmir's oldest Christian missionary school Tyndale Biscoe and graduated from Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He was first arrested in 1990 for being a sympathiser of the armed struggle that had broken out a year ago and remained behind bars until 1996.
Alam, who was charged with inciting the youth during the summer unrest of 2010 -- in which more than 117 young men were killed; most of them during action by security forces, has been arrested under the act thrice since his arrest in October 2008.
He, however, was released a few days after the PDP-BJP coalition formed a government this March.
His release evoked a strong reaction from the opposition as well as the BJP, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing anguish in Parliament.
Experts believe the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference has gained in strength in recent months with several parties, which were members of the moderate faction of the separatist grouping, lining up under Geelani’s leadership.
Alam, chief of Muslim league (a faction of Hardline Hurriyat Conference) is widely seen as successor to the chief the organisation, Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani.