The Masarat Aalam Factor

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While the courts in Kashmir have trashed cases against the firebrand separatist leader Masarat Aalam on multiple occasions, the security agencies have ensured that Aalam not only remains incarcerated but also stays away from Kashmir, SHAH ABBAS reports

The firebrand separatist leader of Kashmir, Masarat Aalam, at his residence.

Muslim League leader, Masrat Aalam Bhat has been charged of aligning with Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani and fifteen FIRs have been mentioned as fresh grounds for his detention. The pioneer of 2010 uprising, Aalam was very recently detained under Public Safety Act 1978 for the fifth consecutive time since his arrest in October 2010. In this connection, an order number DMS/PSA/24/2012 was issued by District Magistrate Srinagar on 3 August 2012.

The grounds of detention against Mastrat Aalam read, “With the realignment of secessionist cadres, you sided with the hardcore faction because of your mental compatibility with this faction”. Worth to mention that when the old and ailing separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani formed his own faction of Hurriyat Conference (what he called the cleansing process of Hurriyat), Aalam and a number of leaders who are presently in the Mirwaiz faction of Hurriyat, backed him.

According to the District Magistrate Srinagar, normal laws have failed to stop Masrat Aalam from indulging in secessionist activities. So an extraordinary law like Public Safety Act was being applied every now and then against him. Grounds of detention copy which has been served to Masrat reads, “Since normal law has not been proved sufficient to stop you from indulging in secessionist activities, you have been detained under preventive laws on several occasions and last time you were detained under PSA vide order no. DMS/PSA/55/2011 dated 30/12/2011”.

District administration Srinagar is surprised about how Aalam gets the services of top advocates and gets the detention orders quashed by the courts, though he has not any known source of income. Grounds of detention against him said, “Though you have no known source of income but have always been represented by top advocates in the courts, who assail every order of detention passed against you”.

Acting Chief (Amir) of Muslim League, Mohammad Yousuf Mir gives full credit to Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom who, according to Mir, does not demand even a penny for fighting the cases lodged against separatists. Mir said, “Every advocate who is the member of Kashmir High Court Bar association represents pro-freedom activists and leaders whenever they are detained. Bar president Advocate Mian Qayoom takes special interest in the cases against Masrat Aalam Bhat for which the whole nation thanks Mr. Qayoom”.

In his order against Masrat District Magistrate Srinagar has said, “It is clear that your activities are highly prejudicial to the maintenance of security of the state and warrant immediate preventive measures to be taken against you to prevent the society from violence, strikes, economic adversity and social indiscipline”.

Hailing from Zaindar Mohalla Srinagar, a Biscoe student of his times, Masrat Aalam was first arrested on 2nd October 1990 when he was a militant. According to Muslim League sources, Aalam has been detained under Public Safety Act 24 times since then. The district administration is of the opinion that Aalam has not changed his anti-India stance even after being detained in jails every now and then but has only changed his tactics. The latest grounds of detention against Masrat says, “You have changed your method and instead of taking to arms you have chosen to resort to different means i.e forming a pseudo political outfit”.

Masrat was last arrested on 18 October 2010 after remaining underground for almost four months. In the course of time, he issued a number of protest calendars which received overwhelming public response. When the last PSA order against him was quashed by the High Court, he was re arrested by police station Counter intelligence Jammu (CIJ) on 31st July 2012 in connection with the investigation of case FIR No.02/2012 of police station, Counter intelligence Jammu.

While slapping fifth consecutive PSA on 39 years old Aalam, District

Magistrate, Srinagar writes, “I have reached the conclusion that it would be expedient to detain you under the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978”. District Magistrate Srinagar also says that he is constrained to direct the lodgement of Masrat Aalam Bhat at District Jail Udhampur. While defending his order of lodgement District Magistrate Srinagar says, “After verifying the present status of lodgment

capacity of central jail Srinagar which is overcrowded, I am constrained to direct the lodgment of detenue (Masrat) at District jail Udhampur”.

Although there are only 90 prisoners presently detained in Central jail, Srinagar who are facing secessionist charges, yet the jail is very overcrowded. According to sources, Central jail Srinagar has a capacity of 300 prisoners but presently, there are as many as 439 people detained in the jail which has given rise to a numberless problems for not only the prisoners but also for the jail officials as well.

Agitated youth pelting stones at security forces in Srinagar during mass uprising in 2010 in Kashmir

Separatist parties whose leaders and workers are frequent visitors of jails are of the opinion that administration has lodged such a large number of criminals in Central jail, Srinagar so that they can have an excuse to lodge separatist activists and leaders in the jails outside the valley.

Released recently after spending almost two years of imprisonment in Central jail, Srinagar, a senior Hurriyat (G) activist Syed Imtyaz Haider asks, “If Central jail Srinagar is overcrowded, why it is affecting only pro-freedom prisoners? Why are not criminals being transferred to jails outside valley like the pro-freedom activists and leaders?”

Legal experts and the people working for human rights are of the opinion that lodging prisoners outside valley is not only a big human rights violation but also against the Supreme Court ruling. Advocate Rafiq Ahmad Joo said, “Supreme Court of India has passed a ruling clearly saying that any prisoner should not be detained far from the place of his arrest so that judicial process is taken forward smoothly”. Advocate Joo further explains, “The Supreme Court ruling is also for the convicts so that their kith and kin can meet them without any inconvenience and whenever they like”.

Kashmir valley has three district jails besides Central jail, Srinagar. According to sources, sub jail situated at Keherbal Mattan in south Kashmir, Baramula and Kupwara are seldom used and a very small number of prisoners are lodged in them. Official sources told ‘Kashmir Life’ that valley’s three district jails lack basic facilities and they are also going through under staff problems, a reason why these are not used like the district jails of Kuthua, Udhampur, etc. in Jammu division. The three district jails of Kashmir are though used in emergencies. According to sources when arrests crossed record limits in 2010, the jails of Mattan, Kupwara and Baramula were used to their full.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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