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Brazen defiance

In an unfortunate development, supporters of Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam waved Pakistani flags and raised pro-Pakistan slogans at a rally in Srinagar today. The rally, organised by Alam, sought to welcome to Hurriyat Conference hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani back to the Valley after months in the national capital.  In response to the ‘anti-India’ rally, one half of the Jammu and Kashmir state government--the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- has demanded immediate action against Alam and those involved in the rally. The event follows the killing of a youth in Tral area of Pulwama district by the Indian armed forces. It is still not clear whether the deceased youth was a militant or not.

The local populace, however, is up in arms over what they consider to be an ‘encounter killing’ of an innocent Kashmiri youth. It is imperative to note that no correlation between the above incidents has been established yet. The point of significance, though, was Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s reaction to the latter incident. The PDP chief said that the youth’s death was “unfortunate” and urged the army to be more cautious in dealing with such situations. Hurriyat Conference leader Masarat Alam, who reportedly organised the anti-India protests of 2010 in Kashmir Valley that saw the death of 112 people, was recently released from jail by the state government amidst much controversy.  The decision to release Alam, who was detained under the draconian Public Safety Act, had caused much consternation within the BJPs ranks.

This decision followed Sayeed’s statement on his first day in office, where he thanked Pakistan, militants and the Hurriyat for allowing elections to be held in the state. Such events paint a complex picture of the challenges the present coalition government faces, with both sides on the opposite end of the ideological divide. Critics of the new coalition government have pointed out that the alliance between both political entities may not necessarily be a good one. They believe that the present arrangement will only accentuate the Kashmir-Jammu divide, since governance in the state will be predicated on religious and sectarian identity. If both sides aren’t careful, the situation could flare up further. The actions of Alam and his supporters, however, have not helped matters.  

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