New Free Radicals
SRI NAGAR : This storm too might pass. But it is not going to signal the end of strife and struggle in the Kashmir valley. A new, young, and radical leadership is taking charge in Kashmir and New Delhi will be all at sea taking it on
Ask anyone in Srinagar about Masarat Alam and a hush descends. "We haven't seen him. We only know Geelani," said Mohd Yusuf, a shopkeeper. He looked around furtively as others nodded in agreement.
Alam's name sends thrills and chills down people's spines. This 38-year-old tech-savvy former militant (he was a commander of the pro-Pakistan Hezbollah in the '90s) is set to radicalise Kashmir politics in a manner that even a hardline separatist leader like Syed Ali Shah Geelani didn't dare. Alam went into hiding when the Omar Abdullah government started rounding up leaders of Geelani's faction of the Hurriyat and although he has not been seen since, he's been heard often enough.
He doesn't use a cellphone to avoid detection, but he's made effective use of the internet by spreading his message of protest through Youtube and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Gmail Buzz. With Geelani in jail, Alam managed to fill the void, issuing protest calendars and urging Kashmiri youth to come out on the streets against Indian "occupation" forces. "Go India, Go Back" . Alam has succeeded in introducing the slogan into the lexicon of public protests in the Valley.
Judging by the fear that his name seems to inspire, Alam is seen as a dangerous man. The police have conducted 100 raids so far in one of the biggest manhunts in the Valley, but they haven't been able to lay their hands on him. Yet, Alam's influence is pervasive. He is said to have even held news conferences in hiding.
A college graduate, Alam is a product of one of Srinagar's leading missionary schools, Tyndale Biscoe, and speaks fluent English. He's been arrested at least seven times, but his stints in jail haven't dimmed his fervour. His party, the Students Islamic League, joined Geelani's faction when the Hurriyat split in 2003, but he rose to prominence only during the Amarnath shrine land transfer agitation in 2008.
Because he is still emerging, few are familiar with the politics he practices. But together with Asiya Andrabi, who heads the all-women separatist organisation called Dukhtran-I-Millat , Alam is regarded as the natural successor to Geelani. The fear is that leaders like Alam, with their radical views, will convert a Kashmiri movement into an Islamic movement, creating a communal divide that has never existed in Jammu and Kashmir.
Times of India