Masarat Alam Bhat

Masrat Alam Bhat (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Masarat Alam Bhat, the pioneer of 2010 people’s uprising, was only 19-year-old when he first went to jail in 1990. Since then Masarat, known as the resistance’s poster boy, has been in and out of the jail numerous times.

An alumnus of Tyndale Biscoe, Masarat was released after more than a year when arrested for the first time. He was detained for a second time in 1993 and kept in custody for more than four years. His detention was prolonged through repeated extensions of detention orders and Masarat was released only in February 1997.

Masarat was detained for a fourth time in January 2001, and released in August 2003. Two months later, he was detained for the fifth time on October 7, 2003 and held till July 2005.

From 1990 to 2005, Masarat was served with as many as nine detention orders under draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) and was incarcerated in various jails across the state. Sixteen detention orders under PSA were issued against him during that period.

Despite spending many years in jails for his “pro-Kashmir” activities, Masarat’s was still unknown to most of the people in Kashmir.

Finally in 2008, Masarat emerged as a significant “political force”. His role in the anti-government agitation, triggered by the transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, brought him into limelight. He coined the slogan “Ragda Ragda”. Realising his new found political influence, the authorities detained him once again, and this time for 21 months.

He was released in June 8, 2010. Three days later the killing of Tufail Mattoo and the subsequent outcry over his death added momentum to Masarat’s “political career”.

Few days after Matoo’s death, Masarat went into hiding. On June 25, he announced a protest calendar titled “Quit Jammu and Kashmir Movement” from an undisclosed location through a press conference.

Eventually, his role during the 2010 agitation made him a formidable “resistance force”. His sudden prominence readied the authorities to announce a bounty of Rs 15 lakh on his head and he became the valley’s “most wanted” resistance leader.

Masarat was accused of having orchestrated fierce “anti-India” protests in the valley. “You are a known incorrigible secessionist and have been figuring adversary in police records since 1989…,” read a detention order after Masarat, the prized catch was arrested by JK police on October 18, 2010 from the home of his maternal uncle in Telbal, Srinagar.

Often pitched as a successor to ailing Syed Ali Geelani, Masarat, was relased in April 2015 after facing six Public Safety Acts, and spending 56 months in jail since 2010.

But he was once again arrested after he attended a rally organised to welcome Geelani, who was coming home after spending winters in New Delhi. This time Masarat was accused of raising pro-Pakistan slogans during the rally.

The hue-and-cry in mainland India following the rally forced then PDP-BJP coalition to re-arrest Masarat, just after his forty days of “freedom”.

Since then courts have quashed his PSA’s, ordered his release, but every time a different charge sheet is invoked to keep him behind the bars.

On December 27, 2016, the JK high court quashed his 34th PSA and ordered his release. However, a different charge sheet was produced again.

On January 18, 2017, the Court of City Magistrate, Srinagar issued a bail in favour of Masarat and ordered his release. This according to his party sources was 40th bail granted in Masarat’s favour after his arrest in 2010.

However, on January 19, Police again sought his remand and detained him in Police station Shaheed Gunj

–Muhammad Raafi

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