Yasin Malik held, booked under POTO and FEMA
25 March 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: For the first time in the history of the Hurriyat Conference one of its senior leaders, JKLF chairman Yasin Malik, was arrested by the police while addressing a press conference at the Hurriyat headquarters here on Monday. The police has booked the JKLF chief under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and the Foreign Exchange Management Act. He was later taken to an unknown destination. Mr Malik was refuting the charge that the $100,000 allegedly seized by the police from a Kashmiri woman while returning to Srinagar from Kathmandu on the weekend was meant for him when gun-wielding policemen barged into the conference room and forcibly took away the secessionist leader. The police threatened Mr Malik and his supporters by brandishing assault rifles and other service weapons when they resisted. In the melee, a policeman seized Mr Malik by the collar, which provoked one of the JKLF leader’s associates to strike the policeman in the face. His senior, the concerned station house officer, quickly asked the policeman to withdraw. The police had arrived in the Rajbagh area where the Hurriyat headquarters are located before the start of the press conference at 2 pm. Mr Malik had spoken for about five minutes when the police party led by the SHO of the Rajbagh police station, Mr J.P. Singh, entered the conference hall on the second floor. He told Mr Malik: “Come with us, you are under arrest.” At that time, Mr Malik was flanked by his lieutenant Javed Ahmed Mir and another party activist named Khalid. The JKLF leader refused to obey and said, “Let me first finish the press conference.” The officer appeared adamant. Then came the slogan shouting — “Long live Yasin Malik,” “We want freedom,” “Down with the police task force.” Judging the mood, the police officer and his men withdrew. A few minutes after Mr Malik resumed explaining his position on the charges made by the police, Mr Singh and his reappeared on the scene but had to leave again without effecting the arrest. “I’m not afraid of being arrested but this is not the way. Let me speak to them (the media) and only then you may come and do whatever you want to,” Mr Malik told the SHO when he was leaving. His colleagues closed the door from inside. “Look what these people are doing,” Mr Malik said to the reporters. “I’ve been framed in a false case to justify my arrest,” he added. But before he could proceed further, the policemen, now joined by the area deputy superintendent of police, Mr Tanveer Jeelani, forced their way into the conference hall. A stunned Yasin Malik sought the officer’s “cooperation” to complete the press conference but the officer refused to oblige. The air was again filled with slogans. The police officer wanted the cameramen “close this.” Mediapersons resisted him. “You do your job, we’ll do ours,” one of them suggested. “But you are trying to protect him,” the officer claimed. Mr Malik was forcibly lifted from his chair while his supporters shouted “We want freedom.” As the slogans continued while he was being removed from the scene in a police Gypsy, the police fired tear gas canisters outside the Hurriyat headquarters. The arrest sparked off street protests in Maisuma, a congested locality where Mr Malik lives with his parents adjacent to the JKLF headquarters. The party has called a general strike on Wednesday. The arrest came a day after state police chief Ashok Kumar Suri claimed to have seized $100,000 from one Shazia Begum who, along with her fiancé Mushtaq Ahmed Dar, was travelling between Srinagar and Jammu. He claimed the money, received from a JKLF leader named Altaf Qadiri in Kathmandu, was meant for Mr Yasin. But the JKLF leader denied the charge shortly before he was arrested. Police chief A.K. Suri said the couple were booked under Poto and that the arrest of Mr Malik was a follow-up action. Asked why the police chose to arrest the JKLF leader at a press conference, he said, “He was untraceable, that is why we did it.” Earlier on Monday, the police seized Mr Malik’s passport and some other documents from his home and offices. Mr Malik had traveled to the US using the “country-specific” passport issued to him last year to received specialised treatment for a heart ailment.