Ma’sarat of MINUTES

It all happened within an hour’s time. Masarat Alam, the man who spearheaded 2010 protests, was rearrested within minutes after court let him go.  Shah Abbas reports Masarat’s short lived reunion with his family after four years

Masrat-Alam-Re-arrested

Men and women in this old city neighbourhood were yet to believe their ears that the most gentle but brawny man of their area has been freed after four years of his incarceration. Women in particular had started to shower flower petals, sweets and almond on him. Swiftly, a police party reached here and whisked away the 43-years-old Masarat Alam Bhat again.

“It all happened in minutes,” said Abdullah, (name changed on request), a local resident “We had just a glimpse of Masarat and they (police) came and snatched him from us again.”

A wind of joy had visited Masarat Alam’s house after a long wait of four years but it was short lived. Masarat’s mother, wife and his mentally and physically disabled sister could just feel it.

Hurriyat Conference (G) leader and Muslim League chief, Masarat was released in an open court on June 14, 2014 after he was arrested on October 18, 2010, the year which witnessed mass uprising against Indian rule in Kashmir and the death of 128 people, mostly students. Masarat spearheaded the uprising on the instructions of his ‘Peer’ Syed Ali Geelani who was arrested along with his close associate, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai in Kupwara on June 20, 2010 and later detained under Public Safety Act (PSA).

“Geelani sahib had called Masarat Alam minutes before his arrest and directed him to take the charge of Hurriyat Conference and the movement along with Haji Ghulam Nabi Sumji,” a source close to Hurriyat (G) disclosed to Kashmir Life.

Masarat led the uprising, naming ‘Quit Kashmir movement’. Soon writ of the government vanished and massive anti-India protests became order of the day for many months. Sources say the police party which arrested Masarat in Tailabal area was rewarded with out of turn promotions and a bounty of Rs 10 lakh.

Analysts believe that Geelani exhibited his confidence in Masarat because of the role he played during the Amarnath land row.

Masarat was the last separatist leader arrested in 2008, a year after he married a woman who had lost her brother during the turmoil. He was released after 21 months only on bail in May 2010.

“Though Masarat Sahab had spent less than a month with his family yet he obeyed his ‘cherished Peer’ and went in to hiding on June 25, 2010 after the historic press conference declaring ‘Quit Kashmir movement’,” Abdullah said. “Masarat honours Geelani’s call like anything.”

Sources say when Masarat was bailed by the court of Srinagar Tehsildar recently on June 14, 2014 he swiftly rode a motorbike to his house. “We had made arrangements to re-arrest him, but the inexperienced and newly recruited police officials made possible for him to reach the motorbike,” a police officer, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir Life.

It was a hot afternoon of June 14 when this reporter came to know about Masarat’s release. I informed my editor who assigned me an immediate interview of the man who had emerged as a very popular leader of the youth in Kashmir. This reporter contacted Masarat on a cell phone of his associate and asked for an immediate appointment. “I am on way to your residence and need not more than ten minutes,” I assured Masarat who surprised me by informing that a police party had already reached his house and want to re-arrest him when he was out for not more than twenty minutes. Without wasting any more time I hurriedly shot a few questions to him.

“I have dedicated my life for the cause of freedom. I am not scared of jails and incarcerations. I am convinced that India has to vacate our land but it needs steadfastness on part of people and leadership,” Masarat was quick in his response. I asked him that did he ever feel any disappointment while behind the bars. “No, never ever. But yes, I was worried a lot when recently our Qaid, Syed Ali Geelani was unwell.” I wanted to ask him some more questions but he dropped the call and I realised that he was ‘officially’ re-arrested.

This reporter again rang to the editor about the new development after confirming Masarat’s re-arrest but did not return to the office. I straightway reached Zainadar Mohalla minutes after Masarat was taken away.

The shopkeepers had come down from their shops and were standing sadly on the main road. A police vehicle had just passed the road carrying Masarat back to prison.

The long and winding narrow lane leading Masarat’s house was still abuzz. Women with wet eyes were rubbing their hands as if they were mourning a big loss. The youngsters too were exchanging dismay but only by their sad looks at each other. This reporter decided to talk to the family members directly but found them in a shock. At first they had not believed their eyes when Masarat stood in front of them. But as they started cherishing the moment of their reunion with their beloved family member, police came and took him away leaving his family in deep shock.

I did not go in because I saw Masarat’s close relatives on the outer gate of their house who probably were returning after following Masarat a little out.

I could see sweets and almonds still around the house earlier showered by women on Masarat.

Muslim League sources told Kashmir Life that handcuffed Masarat was produced before the court of Tehsildar Srinagar who bailed him out at 2:15 PM. Immediately, he rode to his house. “When Masarat entered his home and his disabled sister saw his brother, she responded as if saying, “My eyes were craving for you, my dear brother,” said Abdul Ahad Parra, one of Masarat’s colleagues who accompanied Masarat to his house. Masarat’s sister is unable to stand on her feet.

“Soon the women folk assembled and started showering sweets and almonds on him,” Parra added.

Masarat wanted to see his wife and her father before people would gather. So he left for his in laws who are also living in the same locality. In the meantime a police party raided Masarat’s house.

“When his wife saw Masarat, she broke down and started weeping, probably to give vent to her long heartache she is going through,” Parra said. Masarat was offered something to eat by his in laws and he left for his home again but not before calling his ‘Peer sahab’ Syed Ali Geelani. “Masarat took my cell phone and called Geelani sahib,” Parra said.

Masarat had just gone inside his home were his jubilant neighbours and relatives had started to gather, the same police party which had raided and searched the house few minutes before came and re-arrested Masarat at 3:15 PM.

 “It was not a freedom of hours but few minutes,” Parra said. “We reached Zainadar Mohalla at 2:45 PM and they (police) again took him away at 3:15 PM.”

Some angry youth inquired about my presence there as they saw me enquiring about Masarat. I found it suitable to leave the spot even as Abdullah convinced them about me. When I was about to leave I heard one of the youth yelling: “When all the people who claim to be leaders are free why only Masarat Sahab is being punished? Is there any difference between his Azadi and other’s?”

An alumnus of Tyndale Biscoe School Masarat was first arrested on October 2, 1990 when he was a militant. According to Muslim League sources, since then Masarat has been detained under Public Safety Act 26 times.

However the Supreme Court of India in March 2013 directed the Jammu and Kashmir government that if it wanted to slap Public Safety Act (PSA) on jailed Hurriyat (G) leader, it must inform him before one week so that he can take legal measures. “Since then Masarat is languishing in jails and police stations under the provisions of preventive custody,” Muslim league spokesman, Parra said.

The SC direction had come after Masrat’s family had approached the apex court to challenge the fifth PSA against him through SC lawyer Mittya Ramakrshna and the application was heard three times.

Masarat was slapped with the sixth consecutive PSA since 2010 some days earlier.

The latest grounds of detention against him issued by the district administration Srinagar included many allegations. “In order to prevent the recurrence of the circumstances of 2008, 2009 and 2010, your detention has become imperative,” reads the copy.

He faced last five PSAs on numerous cases registered in different police stations. Muslim League deputy chief, Mohammad Yousuf Mir while giving details about the said cases alleged that some of them were strangely registered after his arrest in October 2010. “Masarat has been bailed out in all the cases registered against him till date,” Mir said.

The cases under which Masarat faced PSAs since 2010
FIR no 34/2006 in police station Nageen
FIR no 80/2006 in police station Kothibagh
FIR no 86/2006 in police station Kothibagh
FIR no 12/2006 in police station Kralekhud
FIR no 70/2007 in police station Safakadel
FIR no 35/2008 in police station Kralekhud
FIR no 42/2008 in police station Kralekhud
FIR no 07/2010 in police station Maisoma
FIR no 74/2010 in police station Shaheed Gunj
FIR no 128/2010 in police station Sader
FIR no 52/2010 in police station Kothibagh
FIR no 59/2010 in police station Harwan
FIR no 50/2010 in police station Nowhatta
FIR no 219/2010 in police station Parimpora
FIR no 60/2010 in police station Nageen
FIR no 82/2013 in police station Kuthua

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