Kashmiri separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who were among those invited by the Pakistan High Commission for a meeting with national security advisor Sartaj Aziz ahead of India's talks with Pakistan, were placed under house arrest on Thursday for a couple of hours. They were later released after the government faced criticism for its action.
Indian officials are scheduled to meet Pakistan's Aziz in three days. Yesterday, Pakistan had extended an invitation to the separatist leaders to meet them before the official talks. Today, Indian authorities blocked the house gates of the leaders and placed security outside their homes. According to reports, this was to stop them from going to Delhi and meet with Aziz. However these restrictions were removed soon after.
Houses of other separatist leaders were raided, including that of Hurriyat spokesperson Shahid Ul Islam and senior leader Javed Mir. They were not present at their homes at the time of the raids.
"This is for the first time the separatist leadership is not allowed to meet Pakistan officials. We have attended receptions and meetings at the high commission in the past. The step was totally uncalled for," Hurriyat (G) spokesperson Ayaz Akbar said.
Indian NSA Ajit Doval is scheduled to meet his Pakistani counterpart on Sunday in New Delhi, even as cross-border firing remains a burning issue, raising security concerns. After Pakistan invited separatist leaders for a meeting as well as a reception, Indian authorities reacted strongly, saying "appropriate action" will be taken if such a meeting takes place. India has in the past called off talks with Pakistan for a similar reason.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the house arrests, saying that it was "shameful" of the Mufti Syed government to "arrest on demand."
"He had no business following his masters orders & detaining the Hurriyat leaders like this. If the centre was so keen to prevent the Hurriyat leaders from meeting Sartaj Aziz they should've been told to detain them themselves," Abdullah said in a series of tweets.
"I've never seen an Indo-Pak dialogue where both sides are so keen to sabotage it. India & Pak competing to give reasons to call off talks. Shelling, Infiltration, terror attacks & now Hurriyat arrests, clearly no side wants to talk & yet neither side has the guts to call it off," he said.
Shame on Mufti Syed for arresting on demand. He had no business following his masters orders & detaining the Hurriyat leaders like this.— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) August 20, 2015
The only word that describes all this - bizarre!!!!!! https://t.co/jaNFLdHiMW— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) August 20, 2015
Playing out in Kashmir - confusion, pure & simple unadulterated confusion.— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) August 20, 2015