SRINAGAR -- A defiant hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam, whose release has triggered a strong political reaction, today said the change of government does not mean change of reality on the ground, and that his struggle will continue.
"Changing (state) governments does not change the reality on the ground. It does not affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir," he said, a day after he was freed after four and a half years of detention.
Alam said he is likely to organize protests again. "We will sit again and chalk out the strategy for future. Whatever is necessary for taking this movement forward. Let me tell you that we will not be cowed down and struggle will continue till we achieve our goal of azadi," he said.
Alam was released Saturday from a Baramulla jail, where he had been kept since his arrest in 2010 for organizing anti-India protests that led to the death of 112 people. This came two days after Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed asked the state police chief to initiate the process of releasing political prisoners against whom there were no criminal charges.
Alam, the leader of Muslim League party, and part of Hurriyat Conference, rejected suggestions that there was a secret deal between him and the state government over this release and it could lead to dialogue between the Centre and the separatists.
"What is the big deal in my release? I have been going in and coming out of jails for the last 20 years. What is new in my release now?" he asked amid a major row over his release. Alam is now seen as a potential successor to Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Geelani heads the hardline, pro-Pakistan faction of the party that had split in 2003.
State government coalition partner BJP said the PDP didn't consult it. "This step does have consent of BJP. Nor was BJP consulted before taking such a decision," state BJP chief and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma told reporters. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that Alam should not have been released.
So either Alam has turned a new leaf & done a deal with Mufti Syed or he will go back to organising trouble in he valley. Time will tell 4/n— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 7, 2015
Alam had been in and out of jail since 1990. But he first came into the limelight in 2008, when he led massive protests related to Amarnath land row. He was arrested and stayed behind bars for two years after being booked seven times under the PSA. Soon after his release in 2010, a teenager was killed in action by security forces. Under Alam's command, the protests snowballed into a massive agitation. He went underground and continued to lead the protests until he was arrested. The unrest ended with that, and more than a hundred people were killed.
Alam was the chief architect of the 2010 protests. It's not a coincidence that the protests died out AFTER his hard won detention 2/n— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 7, 2015
Alam had been booked under PSA six times since then and each time the courts had quashed the charges against him. But the police filed other charges and he stayed in jail.