Separatist leader and Muslim League Chairman Masarat Alam Bhat was released on Saturday after being detained for four years. Six PSAs were invoked against him since his arrest in year 2010. In an interview , Masarat talks about his release, days in jail and 2010 unrest.
How do you see your immediate release after government decided to free all political prisoners?
I was released through a normal legal procedure. My Public Safety Act (PSA) was about to end in next two to three days. I had obtained three bail orders from the court. So, if any mainstream political party takes credit it is wrong.
So you are saying that Mufti Sayeed’s decision has nothing to do with your release?
No, I don’t think that Mufti has got anything to do with my release. He (Mufti) is just trying to get a political mileage out of it. All my PSA were quashed, there was no legality to keep me in prison anymore.
Your PSA’s were quashed during past four years also why we’re you not released?
It is how judiciary works here. The moment I was released agencies and police used to slap another PSA on me. There were 10 PSAs against me in 2008 and six more were invoked against me since my arrest in 2010.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has strongly reacted to your release, terming you “threat to security of the state”?
BJP has its own political compulsions. They have to satisfy their “masters” back home, that’s why they are making hue and cry over my release. How come Masarat Alam’s release makes any difference, there are thousands of “pro-freedom” people languishing in jails over decades.
Do you have anything to say on Omar Abdullah’s comment of having no regrets of releasing you in his tenure?
He is a puppet and has always acted on the direction of centre and agencies. I don’t take him or his comments seriously. He is immature in politics.
You were instrumental in issuing protest calendars in 2010 unrest. Do you feel that the protest calendars let to those deaths?
Our calendar was based on peaceful protests. It was JK police in collaboration with paramilitary forces who targeted innocent youth after they tried to come out on streets and carry peaceful protest rallies.
What about stone pelting incidents?
Stone pelting was not orchestrated by anybody. It was natural reaction of the people after their peaceful protests were curbed. When you fire on peaceful protesters you were bound to have the reaction.
Do you think situation could have been treated differently by the state government?
Absolutely, if state government would have allowed peaceful protests and rallies, killings could have been avoided. To resist people agitate but where in the world are they killed for it!
Killing innocent Kashmiri people has been the norm of government here. 2010 was not the first incident in which innocent people were killed. We have the examples of Gaw Kadal, Zakura, Chota bazaar, Bijhbera massacres; there were no stone pelting incidents at that time.
How do you see the large voter turnout in the assembly election? Do you feel people have rejected separatism?
Elections don’t matter here. I am firm believer that people are with the freedom movement. As far participation in elections is concerned, our party will deliberate on it. But people also need to introspect and realize the reasons for which they have came out for voting.
Do you feel that because Separatist leaders failed to take the 2010 movement to its logical conclusion led people towards ballot box?
We did not fail. You can’t expect to achieve your goal in overnight, it takes years. It was mass movement that jolted India from the core. However, I do feel that we could have done more that we did.
Was there any rift between you and Syed Ali Geelani? Do you feel your arrest in 2010 put an end to the uprising?
Geelani Sahab is my “Qaid” and there are no differences between us. Whatever decisions I took in 2010 was only after getting a nod from him. I have never overridden his decision.
Has Geelani communicated with you while your time in jail?
No, there was no communication. I spend most of the time in Kathua jail and he too was under continuous house detention, so there was no way to get in touch with each other.
Tell us about your days in jail?
I spend most of my time reading. I read few books that include ‘Flashback’ of Zahirruddin and books on Islam. I also wrote one book called ‘Paigam’ for which there was an FIR against me in Kathua jail.
What will be your future strategy? Will there be more protests like in past?
We will continue with our struggle until we reach our destination. Our party will sit and discuss the future strategies.
Do you think it is feasible time for all separatist leaders to get united? What about the talks with GoI?
All things will be discussed when our part holds its executive meeting. Whatever will be in the best interest of Kashmir movement and its people will be taken.