Top separatist leader on the 'war' in Kashmir
The Jammu and Kashmir police on Monday evening arrested Masarat Alam Bhat, the most wanted separatist leader in the Valley and a close aide of hard-line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, from the outskirts of Srinagar.
A senior police officer said Masarat Alam Bhat was arrested from a house in Wangund area of Srinagar during a police raid. Bhat has now been shifted to an undisclosed location for questioning.
Bhat, a close aide of Geelani, had been eluding the security forces for the past four months.
He was released earlier in June in Srinagar after remaining under detention for two years under the Public Safety Act.
Image: Masarat Alam Bhat
'We will win the war in Kashmir'
Earlier, in September, the Wall Street Journal had interviewed the 39-year-old separatist leader:
He told the WSJ that these protests would intensify after Eid-ul-Fitr unless the Centre offers major concessions to appease protesters who want an azaad Kashmir
Bhat conveys the picture of a movement that is home grown and highly organised.
"We are hopeful and sure we will win this war," Bhat, who rarely speaks to the media, said from a location in Srinagar.
'People are all against India now'
He claimed that he changes his location every few hours to avoid arrest on charges of inciting violence. Bhat, the most wanted separatist leader in Kashmir, also says that he isn't backed by Pakistan.
"People are all against India now. They will do anything. They will sacrifice anything," he claimed.
"Mass mobilisation has happened before, but never so systematic, never for so long and never so widespread. He has strategised it," says Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a law professor at the University of Kashmir.
Alam is the most wanted man in Kashmir
Kashmir's Inspector General of Police S M Sahai says the authorities are on the lookout for Bhat for playing a central role in the protests.
He believes Bhat's core supporters, unemployed youths aged under the age of 25 years, have intimidated other Kashmiris to shut down schools and shops, but that many are now tired of the closures.
A senior home ministry official said Bhat has a larger support base than other separatist leaders.
'We are not giving in to threats'
"He represents the extreme form of Islamism in Kashmir," the official said, adding that his tactics will be fruitless.
"We are not giving in to threats. There is no chance," the official said.
Bhat is a science graduate who speaks fluent English. He is the leader of a separatist party called the Muslim League. He is also the deputy of the hard-line faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.