In an unexpected move, PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday lifted curbs on the movement of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani to allow him to carry his political activities.
88-year-old Geelani, who has been under house arrest since 2010 at his residence in Hyderpora in Srinagar, was allowed to walk free today after the government lifted curbs on his movement. Although the police contingent remained deployed outside his residence, Geelani was not barred from moving out as had been the case in last eight years.
The development comes after State police chief Shesh Paul Vaid said all three top separatists leader — Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik — were free to go anywhere to carry out their political and social activities.
He, however, said the trio should not make anti-national speeches or create a law and order problem.
Vaid said Mirwaiz and Malik too are free to move on their choice.
He said the credit for lifting curbs on separatists goes to the government.
After lifting of curbs, Geelani accompanied by his close associate Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai whom he had recently appointed as chairman of his party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and supporters came out of his residence to offer congregational Friday prayers at nearby Jamia Masjid.
As he was walking towards the mosque, his supporters chanted pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans.
It was for the first time since 2010 that Geelani offered Friday congregational prayers in a mosque.
A large number of people including men, women and children thronged the Jamia Masjid in Hyderpora to listen to Geelani’s speech.
“After 8 years, I am offering Friday congregational prayers in a mosque. I thank Almighty for it,” Geelani said in his address in the mosque.
Claiming that J&K people have been fighting against “Indian occupation” since 1947, he said, “Our struggle is just. We don’t want to snatch a part of India. India has promised in UN that J&K people will be given right to self-determination to determine their fate.”
He said the UN resolutions have described J&K as a “disputed territory” and called for granting the right to self-determination to J&K people so that they can determine their fate.
“Indian rule in Kashmir was always temporary. India should withdraw troops from J&K and grant plebiscite to people to determine their future,” Geelani said.
Referring to the lifting of curbs, he said, “The police chief has said that the curbs have been lifted and they are free. We (I, Mirwaiz and Malik) have consulted each other and we will give a collective response to it”.
Asserting that people would continue the “freedom struggle”, Geelani urged masses to follow the programmes of Hurriyat leaders in letter and spirit.
After Geelani left the mosque after offering Friday prayers, youth pelted stones on the cops, who resorted to tear smoke shelling and baton charge.
Geelani and other separatist leaders had been calling on the government to give them political space so that they can carry out the political activities.
It remains to be seen whether lifting of curbs on Geelani, who recently handed over leadership of his party to his close aide Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, is part of a deal between the government or separatists or it is unilateral attempt on part of the Mehbooba government to ease restrictions on separatists to pave for talks between the separatist leaders and central government.
Meanwhile, moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asked the government to withdraw his security cover.
In a series of tweets, he said there is sustained attempt to discredit leadership to disillusion people.
“Be it the viscous NIA smear campaign which proved to a flop show or the “police security cover” propaganda. These devious tactics won’t keep people away from me or me away from them and the freedom movement,” he said.
Mirwaiz said the government is free to take back its police cover and stop playing politics over it!”