The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday released separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani from house detention after five years, just 11 days after he stepped down as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
Soon after the curbs were lifted, Geelani visited a mosque at Hyderpora, where he offered Friday prayers and addressed a crowd. His address was reportedly followed by brief clashes between a group of youths and the security forces.
According to police sources, some youths clashed and threw stones on the police and paramilitary forces outside Geelani’s residence in Hyderpora. No one was hurt in the incident, they said.
Geelani was off and on house detention since the massive street protests of 2010. He was put under continuous house detention for the last five years. On October 30, 2013, the then National Conference – Congress government, led by Omar Abdullah, lifted cubs on Geelani’s movement for a brief period. But as Geelani’s public rallies started to pull large crowds across Kashmir — especially in Sopore, Kupwara and Shopian — the government again put him under house arrest just after 18 days.
From 2010, barring an 18-day release in 2013, Geelani was allowed free movement only when he would visit New Delhi during the winters.
“I, with sincerity, want to convey that we are seeking peace and a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. India needs to fulfil its promise and give Kashmiris their right to self-determination,” Geelani told people on Friday. He, however, claimed that he had not been formally informed about his release from house detention.
“I read about it (release) from newspaper,” the 88-year-old said.
J&K’s Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid has confirmed to local newspapers that separatist leaders, including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, were free to “carry out their political and social activities.” The DGP, however, said the leaders should not create law and order problems or make “anti-national” speeches.
The sudden release of Geelani has surprised many in the Valley. “There could be many explanations for this release —the ground situation, in Valley, has only worsened over last few years. Perhaps, New Delhi is rethinking its policy on Kashmir,” said political scientist, Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, who teaches political sciences at Central University of Kashmir. “The alternate explanation could be that the PDP-BJP alliance is not going well.”
Separatists believe it was too early to comment about the release of Geelani. “The (security) forces are still here (outside Geelani residence), the CRPF is here, their vehicles are here. It would be too early to comment,” said Geelani’s close confidante and the new chief of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai. On March 19, Geelani had stepped down as the chairman of Hurriyat.
“We would know the real intention (of the government) only when they give us free space to carry out our political activities., when they won’t stop us. The condition they (police) have put shouldn’t have been there,” Sehrai said.