This Article is From Apr 17, 2015

Separatist Leaders Geelani, Masarat Alam Under House Arrest Ahead of Friday's Rally in south Kashmir's Tral

Masarat Alam has been placed under house arrest in Srinagar. (Associated Press)

New Delhi: Separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Masarat Alam of the Hurriyat Conference were placed under house arrest on Thursday evening, a day after Mr Alam's supporters waved Pakistani flags at a rally led by him in Jammu and Kashmir's capital Srinagar.

Mr Geelani had called for a march tomorrow to Tral in south Kashmir, which has seen tension and protests over the death of a young man allegedly during an encounter between the Army and some terrorists on Monday. The state police said tonight that Mr Geelani will not be allowed to visit Tral tomorrow.

It was to welcome Mr Geelani to the Valley after three months in Delhi that Masarat Alam had called the rally where Pakistani flags were waved and pro-Pakistan slogans raised on Wednesday. Amid nation-wide outrage, a case was registered and this morning, Union Home Minister Rajnath called up Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and demanded "immediate stringent action".

Mr Sayeed said, "Democracy is a battle of ideas, they are free to have their own way, speak their mind. But something which is not acceptable, is not, will not be tolerated."

Police sources told NDTV that a case can be made out against Mr Alam, who was controversially released from prison recently. "Video footage of the rally clearly shows Masarat exhorting the young men waving Pakistani flags," an officer said.

The BJP, which partners the Mufti's PDP in governing J&K, held a rally against the state government and party general secretary Ram Madhav, who had helped negotiate the alliance with the PDP, said, "We are not part of the government to give space to those shouting pro-Pakistan slogans there."

Mr Madhav's statement was the response to a section of the PDP arguing that separatists need to be given political space. "Separatism and Pakistan constituency in Kashmir is a reality and we have to deal with it. We can't deny democratic space to these people," Wahid Rehman Parra, PDP's youth president had said.

Mr Alam, 44, is accused of organising stone-throwing protests in the valley in 2010, in which more than 100 people were killed. His release, days after the PDP-BJP government was sworn in, caused a rift between the two alliance partners who had struggled to bridge an ideological divide.