Poster boy of the 2010 civil dissent against India in Kashmir, Masarat Alam Bhat, who is in jail for allegedly being involved in funding of militant organisations, was on Tuesday named as chairman of the Hurriyat Conference following the death of Syed Ali Geelani last week.
In a statement issued to media on Tuesday, the Hurriyat said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir look up to the amalgam’s leadership with great expectations.
It said that Shabir Ahmad Shah and Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar have been elected as vice chairmen.
The appointments are temporary till elections are held according to the Hurriyat constitution, the faction said.
Bhat, who was charge sheeted by the National Investigation Agency in October 2019, is at present lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
Geelani was an avowed Pakistani supporter and he had spearheaded the resistance movement in Jammu and Kashmir for over three decades.
Though he was elected as the lifetime chairman of the amalgam, he stepped down and dissociated from it last year.
Bhat had become a prominent face of the 2010 protests in the Valley for issuing protest calendars during the turmoil that was sparked off after the death of a youth due to tear gas shells during an anti-India demonstration.
He was arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar city after a four-month search. There was an announcement of Rs 10 lakh award for information about him.
The 50-year-old science graduate and a student of a top school in Kashmir was widely seen as the successor to Geelani.
Bhat was also instrumental in linking banned naxal groups with Kashmiri resistance. An indicator to this link came during 2010 when Bhat, the leader behind 2010 protests, circulated a pamphlet about the plan for strikes by dissenters.
Ironically, the pamphlet was prepared by an overground naxal worker and at several places, even the language was the same.
A detailed examination by the Questioner of Examined Document (QED) of the paper showed that the font used in the pamphlet circulated by Naxal leader Kishenji and by Bhat were identical and even the printers were the same.
His release in 2015 had led to friction between the PDP and BJP alliance government immediately after it was formed prompting the former to put him behind bars within a day after he was set free