National

Masarat Alam's Muslim League Jammu Kashmir Declared 'Unlawful' Under UAPA | All About Man Considered 'Geelani 2.0'

Separatist Masarat Alam (51) is currently in Tihar jail after being booked by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a terror funding case in 2019.

Separatist leader Masarat Alam. (File photo)
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In 2007, the late separatist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani addressed a massive rally in Srinagar’s Eidgah ground adjacent to “Martyrs Graveyard” – a burial place where myriad of graves has surfaced post 90’s, when guns and bombs began to rattle Valley’s landscape.  

Geelani’s rally in downtown Srinagar was considered significant by analysts. The rally sent security grid into tizzy, however, rather than security apparatus that day Geelani’s opponents in the separatist camp were more anxious. The rally was held at a spot where supporters of Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, known as ‘Bakras’(goats), enjoy a massive support base. 

How was hardliner Geelani able to enter the Mirwaiz’s bastion? It was due to a burly man with flowing beard, Masarat Alam Bhat, that Geelani was able to assert his clout in Mirwaiz’s bastion then. It was when Alam began to garner headlines.  

Until then, he was like hundreds of those Kashmiri boys who had become militants during tumultuous 90’s and then shifted to separatist politics to achieve their “Azadi”.  

Now, 51-year-old Alam, is lodged in Tihar jail after being booked by the National Investigation Agency in a terror funding case.

Who is Masarat Alam

In 90’s, Alam had a brief stint with the militancy. Alam is said to have been influenced by another separatist as a teenager. He was influenced by Mushtaq-ul-Islam, popularly known as “Googi Molvi”, involved in infamous cricket turf digging case during ODI match between India and West Indies at historic Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium in 1983. 

Alam was a top commander of pro-Pakistan militant outfit Hezbollah. He was arrested and released later after 13 months of jail term in 1993, the year his separatist political career began. He joined separatist outfit Jammu Kashmir Muslim League, which has now been declared “unlawful” by government for supporting terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Alam later became chief of the Muslim League.

Alam comes from a family in Srinagar’s Zaindar Mohalla. He got his education from one of the most prestigious missionary institutions in Kashmir — Tyndale Biscoe in Srinagar’s city centre of Sheikhbagh. He is married to Zahida, a sister of a slain militant commander Mohammad Salim. The couple has a daughter. 

Alam was Geelani’s ‘darling’

In 2003, when the Hurriyat Conference split, Alam sided with the Geelani-led faction, who were known as “hardliners” for their “uncompromising stance on Kashmir issue”.  It was in fact Alam who was seen as one of the instrumental figures in the division of the Hurriyat into “hardline” and “moderate” factions.

Alam’s Muslim League, which is now banned and is part of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, adheres to a brand of separatist politics that sees the Kashmir issue as an unfinished agenda of Partition. In 2021, Hurriyat Conference appointed jailed Alam as its new chairman, in place of the deceased Geelani.

During 2010 protests, when stone pelting protests rocked Kashmir, Alam was touted as the brain behind it. He was termed as main instigator for protests by the security agencies.

Alam enjoyed considerable support of Geelani following his role in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 protests. 

When Geelani parted ways with the Jamat-e-Islami to form the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Alam became one of its members, while retaining his position in the Muslim League. 

However, the overture  didn’t go well with many in the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and Alam had to resign from its membership.

In 2008, during Amarnath land row, Alam was again the man who played a major role in bringing separatists to one platform. It was Alam who proposed a "coordination committee" of separatists to resist the government order transferring land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. Nearly 60 people were killed that year during protests in Kashmir.

In 2010, Alam emerged as the mastermind of the 2010 street protest that spiralled across Kashmir, in which nearly 120 people, mostly young boys, were killed. 

The police said Alam kept getting money from Geelani to keep people on the streets in 2010.  It was during that year he launched his ‘Quit Kashmir’ movement.

Alam has openly disliked moderate Hurriyat people and has termed them “traitors”. It is said that Alam even called moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz “nika molvi”(small cleric) while he also called former Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat as “Gani tamookh" (gani tobacco).

Alam a ‘big security threat’ 

Alam is considered as a highly polarising figure by the security grid, with agencies saying he can spark unrest in the valley at the behest of Pakistan.

Alam was rearrested in 1993 and released in 1996. He was again detained in 1999, 2001, 2003 and so on. Alam has been detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) on several occasions from 90s. He was detained under PSA for the first time 1991, then in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007, multiple times in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

In a petition filed before the Supreme Court in 2012, Alam’s uncle Farooq Ahmed Bhat pleaded that Alam had spent 12 of the 15 years from 1990 to 2005 in preventive detention. On 14 November 2017, Alam was detained the 36th time under the PSA.

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In 2019, Alam was arrested by NIA in terror-funding case. NIA had said that Alam has confessed that Hurriyat leaders received funds from Pakistan to stir unrest. NIA stated former Hurriyat chief Geelani, was among those Alam named.

“Masarat Alam, the so-called poster boy of stone pelters and violent agitations in Kashmir Valley, during his custodial interrogation, revealed that Pakistan-based agents route funds through hawala operators, which were transferred to separatist leaders, including Syed Shah Geelani, Chairman APHC(G),” an NIA statement said.

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