Other States

Masarat Alam arrested over Pakistan flag hoisting row

The Hurriyat leader had denied hoisting any Pakistan flag himself at the April 15 rally in Srinagar.

Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Friday morning at his home in Srinagar.

“(Alam) 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.

The separatist leader, who was placed under house arrest late Thursday, was taken to the Shaheed Gunj police station after the arrest, the officer said.

Mr. Alam, along with fellow Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Pir Saiffulah, was booked under the UAPA for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans and waving the country's flag at a rally on Wednesday.

Mr. Alam on Thursday said that he had not hoisted a Pakistan flag himself which, he said, was held by some others in the crowd.

Eyewitnesses and police sources told The Hindu that Mr. Alam did not in fact unfurl any Pakistan flag during the rally.

Mr. Alam was released last month in the BJP-PDP government after an incarceration of four and a half years under a string of consecutive Public Safety Act cases.

A senior police official told The Hindu that Mr. Alam would be the only resistance leader to be arrested over the flag row.

“The media wanted Alam to be arrested and the BJP sternly told Mufti Sayeed that they wanted him arrested, and the State government instructed us to arrest him,” a senior police official told The Hindu. “Alam in fact did not raise any flags. On the footage of the rally with the police, he does not raise the flag but shouts pro-Pakistan slogans.”

As he was being led away by police, Mr. Alam said his arrest was nothing new as “Jammu and Kashmir is being ruled on the might of power”.

“Raising of Pakistani flags and chanting pro-freedom slogans is nothing new in Jammu and Kashmir. It has been happening since 1947,” he said.

The Hurriyat had called for a “Tral Chalo” rally for Friday to protests the killing of a 24-year-old civilian by the Army in an alleged gun battle earlier in the week. Police and CRPF have been deployed and restrictions have been put in place to foil the march.

Late on Thursday Mr. Alam and Mr. Geelani were put under house arrest to prevent them from leading a rally to Tral.

Violence in Srinagar

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.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 6:50:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pakistan-flag-waving-controversy-masarat-alam-arrested/article7112354.ece

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