Srinagar police allows Shabir protest march
17 December 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The police allowed a senior separatist leader, Shabir Shah, to lead a protest march here on Tuesday to press for the release of detained separatists and militants. This was the second march in Srinagar this month that the police did not try and prevent. Shabir Shah, the chief of the separatist Democratic Freedom Party, and dozens of his supporters, including women, organised a peaceful protest march from the city’s Jehangir Chowk area. They were carrying banners that said, ''We want justice. We get death'' and ''Self determination is our birth right.'' Shah addressed his supporters through a bullhorn and demanded tripartite talks to resolve the Kashmir issue. The protesters dispersed after covering one-and-a-half kilometres. ''There is a need to resolve the issue of Kashmir through trilateral talks involving India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir,'' Shah said. Though there was heavy police deployment, no attempts were made to stop the march, unlike in the past. Since it came to power on November 2, the new state government has set nearly two dozen militants and separatists free, including Yasin Malik, the chairman of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. However, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, former chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and other senior separatist leaders of the state are still in jail. ''Today’s march is to protest the continued detention of my colleagues and our mujahideen brothers,'' Shah told The Asian Age at the start of the march. Shah, who has served more than 20 years in different jails in and outside Kashmir for his secessionist stand, said the march was also aimed at expressing their anger over the ''implication of Kashmiri journalists and intellectuals in fake cases.'' He was referring to Iftikhar Geelani, a New Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist, and S.A.R. Geelani, the suspended lecturer of Delhi University. Iftikhar Geelani has been in detention since June and the police claims he had acquired ''official defence documents,'' the disclosure of which would have affected the sovereignity and integrity of the country. The accused says he downloaded the same from an Internet site. S.A.R. Geelani was convicted by a court in New Delhi on Monday for his alleged involvement in the attack on Parliament House by militants on December 13 last year. He has, however, pleaded not guilty.