Is govt now following soft approach on separatists in valley?

Signalling the soft approach on separatists, the government has recently released three separatist leaders including a woman Asiya Andrabi from jails and NIA reportedly withdrew summon to younger son of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani this week.

On December 25, two women separatist leaders Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi and her close aide Sofi Fehmeeda were released from jail.

Asiya and Fahmeeda were arrested on April 26 this year and booked under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).

On December 22, a court had ordered their release but they were rearrested by police and shifted to central Jail Srinagar.

However, the duo was set free on December 25, when central government’s interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma arrived in the Valley. It was his third visit to the state after being appointed interlocutor on Kashmir by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on October 23.

A day later, authorities also set free another separatist leader and former militant commander Mushtaq-ul–Islam.

Mushtaq, who is chairman of separatist group Muslim League, was released after remaining in jail for more than eight months.

The authorities also allowed pro-independence JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik to travel to Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district this week. He met the families of a woman and a sumo driver, who were killed in security forces firing during ant-militancy operations in the border district last week.

It was after a long time that authorities lifted curbs on movement of Malik and allowed him to travel.

Authorities have placed hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani under continuous house arrest while curbs are also placed on moderate separatist leader and cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

In a surprising development, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the alleged militancy and separatist funding in the Valley, cancelled summon to Syed Ali Geelani’s younger son Naseem Geelani on December 26.

Naseem was scheduled to appear “as a witness” before the NIA on December 26 and was already in national capital on the day.

“NIA cancelled my appearing at its New Delhi headquarters,” Naseem wrote on Facebook.

However, no reason was given for cancellation of the summon by NIA.

It is not known whether interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma has any role in release of three separatist leaders and cancelling of NIA summon to Geelani’s son.

But Sharma is credited for the amnesty announced last month by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to 4237 first time stone pelters and jobs for the pellet victims in Kashmir.

It was only after recommendation of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma and advice from Union Ministry Home Affair that the State government granted amnesty to first time offenders in the Valley.

A PDP leader said the government was creating conducive atmosphere for the talks between separatist leaders and New Delhi.

He said the government was trying to create atmosphere conducive for the talks and hope that they (separatists) would come forward and talk rather than wasting another opportunity of dialogue.

BJP spokesman Arun Gupta also rejected the notion that the coalition government has gone soft on separatists.

“There is no question of going soft on separatists and militants. The government will continue to go against those, who violate the law, and deal with them according to law of the land,” he said adding nobody has the right to spoil the future of the youth.