The face of anti-government rallies who earned sobriquets like ‘Azaadi Chacha’ and ‘Pied Piper’, Moulana Sarjan Barkati, was arrested in an operation by the police in south Kashmir and immediately booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
Sources said Mr. Barkati, in his 50s, was arrested near Wanpoh area in Anantnag district.
He was wanted for organising and addressing anti-India rallies, which drew hundreds of youth in south Kashmir during the 85-day long civilian unrest. He addressed several rallies in Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag districts.
A known cleric, Mr. Barkhati came under the police radar after his videos went viral on social networking sites. A spokesman of the Ummat-e-Islami, a religious group headed by incarcerated Mirwaiz Qazi Yasir, said the police had been conducting raids on Barkati’s house in Shopian for long now. “The police has now seized his property and threatened the family members, including his six-year-old son,” alleged the spokesman.
In a statement, Qazi Yasir condemned Mr. Barkati’s arrest. “Mr. Barkati has been a popular voice of Kashmir. Arresting him and many others will not stop the people from demanding their right to self-determination,” he said.
The speeches of Moulana Barkati were “only an expression of truth and the government and its agents can’t digest the truth”, the statement said.