Srinagar: Buckling under pressure from alliance partner BJP, the PDP-led government in Jammu and Kashmir today arrested separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat in connection with the raising of Pakistani flags during a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday.
Masrat Alam. File pic/ AFP
"Bhat has been arrested in the case registered in police station Budgam in connection with the provocative actions during the rally on Wednesday," a senior police officer said.
The 45-year-old hardline separatist leader, who was placed under house arrest late on Thursday night, was arrested from his home in Habbakadal area of the city on early Friday morning and taken to police station Shaheed Gunj, the officer said.
As he was being led away by police, Bhat said his arrest was nothing new as "Jammu and Kashmir is being ruled on the might of power." "Raising of Pakistani flags and chanting pro-freedom slogans is nothing new in Jammu and Kashmir. It has been happening since 1947," he said.
The arrest comes hours ahead of Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's call for a march to Tral area of Pulwama district where two youth were killed in an anti-militancy operation on Monday. While the local residents allege that the duo were killed in fake encounter, the army is maintaining that they were militants and killed in a gunbattle.
Police had registered a case against several separatist leaders including Bhat and Geelani for provocative activities including hoisting of Pakistani flag. "An FIR has been registered against Geelani, Bhat, Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah and other separatist leaders for provocative activities and hoisting Pakistani flag in Hyderpora," a police spokesman said.
"FIR No 92/2015 under sections 13 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 147 (rioting), 341 (causing injury), 336 (attacking govt employee), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50 or more) of RPC was registered in Police Station Budgam and investigation into the matter has been taken up," he said.
Bhat, who was released by the PDP-led government last month after spending over four years in jail under Public Saftey Act, said there has been no change in the policy of the state government despite a change in the regime. "I had said at the time of my release that there is no change in policy with the change in regime. This is the way they curb peaceful protests," he added.
Alam's release had created a furore across the country and the issue had even figured in Parliament proceedings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a statement on the floor of the house.
The waving of Pakistani flags and chanting of anti-India slogans at the rally orgainsed to welcome Geelani on Wednesday renewed calls for Bhat's rearrest by the BJP, coalition partner of PDP in the state government.
Meanwhile, police officials said they will not allow any march to Tral town in order to maintain law and order in the area.