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Geelani imprisoned under POTA

New Delhi: Former Hurriyat Conference chairman and firebrand Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his son-in-law were arrested in Kashmir Sunday, June 9, according to the Director General of Kashmir Police, AK Suri.

The arrests followed raids at his premises and of some others at nine places in the Kashmir Valley and two places in New Delhi by the income tax department and Jammu and Kashmir police in connection with alleged overseas funding of militant outfits through him.

Geelani was arrested and sent away to Central Jail Ranchi in the eastern state of Jharkhand. Both Mr Geelani and his son-in-law have been charged under the new anti-terrorist law, POTA, which allows for detention without trial for three years and does away with the normal legal safeguards available to an Indian citizen. The choice of Ranchi jail, a two-days' journey from Srinagar, is also significant. The purpose is to keep the Kashmiri detainees as far away as possible and make family visits difficult. Only immediate family members are allowed a few hours visit every fortnight. They will have to travel all the way from Srinagar to eastern India to meet Mr Geelani who is a known heart-patient in his late sixties.

The raids were carried out around 5 am at the premises of Mr Geelani, his son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Fantoosh, women's separatist outfit Dukhtran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi and one Abdul Rashid Saraf in Srinagar and Baramulla districts. The aim of the raids was said to probe alleged funding of separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir through "business channel".

The police chief claimed that during the search at Srinagar's Hyderpora home of Mr Geelani Rs 1.025 million and $10,000 in cash, vouchers relating to purchase of various items and property documents were seized. The authorities also seized jewellery and three cars from Mr Geelani's house.

Two computers were also taken away by the police. The authorities allege that funds for separatist organisations were sent from Pakistan and Britain through Mr Geelani.

In Delhi the police raided Sunday the house of Iftikhar Geelani, another son-in-law of Mr Gilani and confiscated a laptop computer which they claimed contained "sensitive information." Itikhar Geelani is a well-known journalists who writes for several newspapers and magazines. The authorities claimed that the laptop contained "highly sensitive information, which was detrimental to the security of the country."

In Srinagar, Hurriyat Conference strongly protested the arrest of Mr Geelani, its senior executive member, and termed it as "politically motivated." The Hurriyat Conference has called for a general strike on 11 June to highlight what it called "sabotaging the efforts of international community to resolve Kashmir issue through peaceful means". According to the statement, the 23-party conglomerate said the general strike aims at making the international community understand "who is responsible for creating hurdles in the way of peaceful means to resolve the issues and why."

The Hurriyat Conference statement added that the arrest of Mr Geelani was the result of "negative approach" of the government as it comes at a time when international efforts are on to resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful talks. The timing of the arrest of Geelani is condemnable and shows "narrow-mindedness and negative thinking of the government," the statement said.

Director General of Kashmir Police AK Suri, however, denied the charge that the arrest was politically motivated saying "police acted on concrete information that Geelani was aiding and abetting militancy in the state".

Mr Geelani is regarded as the political and spiritual guide of the separatist militant outfits in Kashmir. He has spent many years behind bars. He wrote the stories of his umpteen incarcerations in a number of books in Urdu including the 2-volume Roodad-e Qafas (Story of the Cage). Before his inclination to support militancy Mr Geelani was a member of the Kashmiri legislative assembly in the 1960s and 1970s and was at one time leader of opposition in that assembly. But after the utterly rigged elections of 1987 Kashmiri people lost all respect for the electoral process in the state. 

Even now the detention of Mr Geelani is related to the Indian scheme to conduct elections in Kashmir next October. Mr Geelani has been recently touring parts of Kashmir to ask people not to take part in the forthcoming elections. India has so far rejected Kashmiri leaders' demand to allow foreign observers to oversee the elections.

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