Mufti Sets Stage For Release Of Hurriyat Hardliner

6 March 2015
The Indian Express
Arun Sharma

Jammu: Days after crediting Pakistan and separatist Hurriyat Conference for the peaceful assembly elections in the state, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has now asked police to release all political prisoners who do not face any criminal charge. Sources said this sets the stage for the release of Masarat Alam, chairman of the Muslim League and a top leader of the hardline Hurriyat Conference. He is considered the brain behind the 2010 stone-pelting unrest in the valley in which 112 people, including several teenagers, were killed in clashes with police and security forces. Masarat, who grew in prominence in the valley for issuing protest calendars, was arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar after a four-month hunt and an announcement of Rs 10 lakh award for information on him. 'Masarat Alam is the only prominent political prisoner at present, detained under the Public Safety Act since October 2010,' a senior police officer told The Indian Express. He said by asking police to release political prisoners not facing criminal charges, the chief minister perhaps wanted to send a message that his government disapproved of the previous dispensation's policy of resorting to preventive detention at the slightest provocation. However, the decision has upset ally BJP. While Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said he does not think the chief minister will do anything without adopting due process of law, BJP general secretary (organisation) Ashok Koul made it clear that his party will not allow it to happen. Koul said certain decisions in a coalition have to be taken at cabinet meetings and not at an individual level. 'How can he do it without taking us (BJP) into confidence,' he said. 'The BJP is talking to them (PDP), asking them for restraint on such issues. We are at present going by our coalition dharma, let us see how long we can pull on.' An official spokesperson said Mufti's directions came at a 'detailed review meeting' he held with Director General of Police K Rajendra on Wednesday. Pointing out that Inspector General, CID, B Srinivasan was also present at the meeting, the spokesperson said, 'Mufti Sayeed instructed the police to initiate a process of releasing all political prisoners in the state against whom no criminal charges are registered.' He said the move is intended to send a positive message across the political spectrum of the state. 'Dissent in democracy makes the system vibrant and dynamic,' the chief minister reportedly said at the meeting. 'Democracy is a battle of ideas and it should not be held hostage to the agreements or disagreements on issues.' During his earlier three-year stint as chief minister in 2002 too, Mufti had ordered lifting of restrictions on movement of separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders within the state, saying democracy was a battle of ideas and preventive detentions without any criminal charge has no place in it. At the meeting, the chief minister also directed police to minimiseDays after crediting Pakistan and separatist Hurriyat Conference for the peaceful assembly elections in the state, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has now asked police to release all political prisoners who do not face any criminal charge. Sources said this sets the stage for the release of Masarat Alam, chairman of the Muslim League and a top leader of the hardline Hurriyat Conference. He is considered the brain behind the 2010 stone-pelting unrest in the valley in which 112 people, including several teenagers, were killed in clashes with police and security forces. Masarat, who grew in prominence in the valley for issuing protest calendars, was arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar after a four-month hunt and an announcement of Rs 10 lakh award for information on him. 'Masarat Alam is the only prominent political prisoner at present, detained under the Public Safety Act since October 2010,' a senior police officer told The Indian Express. He said by asking police to release political prisoners not facing criminal charges, the chief minister perhaps wanted to send a message that his government disapproved of the previous dispensation's policy of resorting to preventive detention at the slightest provocation. However, the decision has upset ally BJP. While Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said he does not think the chief minister will do anything without adopting due process of law, BJP general secretary (organisation) Ashok Koul made it clear that his party will not allow it to happen. Koul said certain decisions in a coalition have to be taken at cabinet meetings and not at an individual level. 'How can he do it without taking us (BJP) into confidence,' he said. 'The BJP is talking to them (PDP), asking them for restraint on such issues. We are at present going by our coalition dharma, let us see how long we can pull on.' An official spokesperson said Mufti's directions came at a 'detailed review meeting' he held with Director General of Police K Rajendra on Wednesday. Pointing out that Inspector General, CID, B Srinivasan was also present at the meeting, the spokesperson said, 'Mufti Sayeed instructed the police to initiate a process of releasing all political prisoners in the state against whom no criminal charges are registered.' He said the move is intended to send a positive message across the political spectrum of the state. 'Dissent in democracy makes the system vibrant and dynamic,' the chief minister reportedly said at the meeting. 'Democracy is a battle of ideas and it should not be held hostage to the agreements or disagreements on issues.' During his earlier three-year stint as chief minister in 2002 too, Mufti had ordered lifting of restrictions on movement of separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders within the state, saying democracy was a battle of ideas and preventive detentions without any criminal charge has no place in it. At the meeting, the chief minister also directed police to minimise procedural wrangles and make verification for issuance of passports time-bound and transparent. Delays in the matter have been a constant source of dismay and irritation for the people, he said.