September 2019 News
Kashmir Lockdown: Top Separatists Free But Mainstream Leaders Face The Axe20 September 2019
Srinagar: As the Kashmir Valley heads towards 50 days of clampdown and mobile phone communication blockade, most Hurriyat (separatist) leaders are free, while most mainstream leaders have either been put under house arrest or taken into preventive custody. In August, close to 3,000 detentions were made but subsequently two-thirds were released. While the Central government had cracked the whip on several top separatist leaders such as Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Asiya Andrabi with a multi-agency swoop down much before August 5th, there were a few exceptions to the move. One such exception was the ailing hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is officially not under house arrest. His recent bid to interact with media was however scuttled. Sources in the administration said, 'Geelani has been very unwell and hence is under surveillance.' The source, however, refused to confirm if the ageing leader was placed under house arrest. Sources told India Today TV that highest leader in Hurriyat is Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and he has not been placed under detention. He, like several other separatist leaders in Kashmir Valley, have been made to sign bonds that they will not indulge in 'political activity' to secure their freedom. Sources say that some leaders have been moving and meeting each other but have not been allowed to conduct any 'political activity'. This list includes names like Abdul Ghani Bhatt and Ashraf Sehrai - Geelani's successor. The government message has been loud and clear, that the leaders will not have 'public dealing' or interact with the 'press'. Besides the top brass, some 12-14 separatists leaders have also not been placed under detention. While the Centre has slapped the Public Safety Act on former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, two other former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be under house arrest. Sources say that the trio is unlikely to be released any time soon. Neither have they made a plea to be released. However, sources say the government is keen to speak to several leaders in the second rung of the mainstream who are willing to negotiate. They claim that since the top leadership is currently missing, NC and PDP cadres have been told that there is no going back on the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370. Government officials believe the lower-level leaders are easy to crack now that the top leadership is confined. Those who are seen as being able to amass public support are the ones who have been confined, sources said. The government-owned Centaur Hotel in Srinagar has been turned into a subsidiary jail, and as of now, at least 36 leaders, including the former bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, are lodged there. None of the detainees at the Centaur Hotel, including People's Conference chairman Sajjad Lone and PDP youth wing leader Waheed Para had agreed to sign bonds that they would not engage in political activity upon release. Sources said that once a formidable partner, BJP eventually lost its faith in Sajjad Lone. According to sources, Lone failed to deliver when it came to government formation. He had promised to deliver NC and PDP MLAs but failed to keep the promise.