Separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat was arrested on Friday amid mounting outrage over raising of pro-Pakistan slogans and flags at a rally attended by him on Wednesday as the Centre said it was keeping a “close watch” on the situation in the Kashmir Valley which witnessed renewed violence.
The 45-year-old hardliner was arrested from his home in Habbakadal area of the city early on Friday morning. Masarat, who was himself seen chanting slogans in support of Pakistan, besides Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had been placed under house arrest in Srinagar on Thursday night.
“Bhat has been arrested in the case registered in police station Budgam in connection with the provocative actions during the rally on Wednesday,” a senior police officer said.
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An FIR was registered against Geelani, Masarat and other separatists leaders for “provocative activities” under various sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other penal laws.
The arrest came hours ahead of Hurriyat’s planned march to Tral area of Pulwama district where two youths had been killed in an army operation. Locals have alleged the two were killed in a staged encounter, while the army insisted they were milintants shot down in a gunbattle.
Meanwhile, pitched battles were fought on the streets of Srinagar on Friday afternoon when supporters of the Hurriyat Conference clashed with police resulting in injury to about a dozen people, including two policemen.
Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces soon after the Friday prayers concluded at the historic Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of the city. Reports of stone-pelting were also received from Tral and adjoining areas.
Young men with clothes wrapped on their faces were seen hurling stones at the police who fired teargas shells to break up the march.
As Srinagar was on the boil, the Centre said it was keeping a close watch on the situation and asserted there will be “zero tolerance” to militancy and separatism.