September 8, 2021 2:55:01 am
THE separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference has appointed jailed leader Masarat Alam as its new chairman, in place of the deceased Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Last year, an ailing Geelani had announced his dissociation from the Hurriyat through a contested video statement. However, the Hurriyat, that had elected Geelani as its lifetime chairman, didn’t accept it and refrained from naming his successor till his death.
The Hurriyat said a consultative exercise conducted “using different mediums to avoid arrests” had led to the selection of Alam as interim chairman, and a permanent structure would be set up through elections “when the situation improves”.
Alam would be assisted by two vice-chairmen, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar. Like Alam, Shah is facing probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and is imprisoned.
“Ghulam Ahmed Gulzar will continue running the affairs of All Parties Hurriyat Conference with regular guidelines from the Chairman,” the Hurriyat said.
Alam, Hurriyat general secretary, was expected to be Geelani’s successor, especially after the late hardline leader’s confidant Mohammad Ashraf Sehari died in custody. Alam, 49, founded the Muslim League, a constituent of the Hurriyat, after his brief affair with militancy in the early 1990s led to two years in custody. He was seen as one of the instrumental figures in the division of the Hurriyat into hardline and moderate factions in 2003.
He first came to the spotlight in 2007 when he organised a rally for Geelani in old Srinagar city, then the stronghold of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of the moderate Hurriyat faction. In 2010, Alam spearheaded public agitations in the Valley, resulting in the death of 120 civilians in action by security forces.
Alam has been in and out of jail through his political career, and has been in continuous detention since April 2015. He has been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for a record 37 times. He is currently in detention after the NIA booked him in a money laundering case.