Violent clashes have erupted between protesters and police in Kashmir, days after 25-year-old Khalid Muzaffar Wani, brother of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, was killed by the Indian armed forces in the Tral area of South Kashmir. Locals have alleged that Wani’s death was a case of “custodial killing”. These clashes have occurred only two days after supporters of Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam waved Pakistani flags and raised pro-Pakistan slogans at a rally in Srinagar. The rally, organised by Alam, sought to welcome 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 the separatist leader. After the controversy over the ‘pro-Pakistan’ rally, the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested Masarat Alam, on charges of indulging in “subversive activities”. The arrest made on Friday morning is seen by many as a major setback to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s initiative, which aimed at bringing separatists back onto the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Many in Valley have bemoaned the state government’s action, suggesting that Mufti caved under pressure from the Centre and arrested Alam, ahead of the latter’s scheduled visit to Tral.
The separatist leader, who reportedly organised the anti-India protests of 2010 in Kashmir Valley, was released from jail by the state government amidst much controversy only a few months ago. 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.
Mufti’s statement was seen as an attempt to include the separatists in the dialogue process. Such events, though, paint a complex picture of the challenges the present coalition government faces. Provocation on both sides of the ideological and political divide, which include Alam’s pro-Pakistan slant and the Indian State’s use of draconian measures like the PSA and AFSPA, have only further muddied the waters. Peace in the Valley does not seem forthcoming and Mufti’s experiment has hit the proverbial brick wall.