Indian police arrest top Kashmiri separatist for leading demonstration

By Aijaz Hussain ,AP

SRINAGAR, India — Indian police arrested a top Kashmiri separatist leader on Friday for leading an anti-India demonstration and detained two others to prevent a planned protest in the Himalayan region.

Masarat Alam was initially placed under house arrest on Thursday night and then formally arrested Friday, police officer K. Rajendra said. The arrest came just weeks after he was released from five years in prison for organizing anti-India protests in 2010.

Police also put two other separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, under house arrest to prevent them from leading a planned march Friday to protest the killing of a militant commander’s brother in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, Rajendra said.

The Indian army said the man was killed in a gunbattle along with a militant on Monday, while his relatives and local residents said he was tortured to death.

Police said Alam joined thousands of Kashmiris waving Pakistani flags at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday and chanted ��provocative and seditious slogans like ‘Long live Pakistan’ and ‘We want freedom.’�� The rally was held to welcome home Geelani, 85, who returned from New Delhi after undergoing treatment for heart and kidney ailments for three months.

Indian television channels repeatedly broadcast scenes of the rally, triggering outrage by politicians in New Delhi. Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Kashmir’s top elected official, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and demanded stern action against Alam.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir and is often expressed through street demonstrations after Indian troops largely suppressed an armed uprising.

The disputed Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan. Residents of the Indian-held portion strongly favor independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.

A number of militant groups have operated in the region since the insurgency erupted in 1989. An estimated 68,000 people have died in the fighting and an ensuing crackdown by Indian forces.