FP REPORT SAMEER Yasir: Mainstream politicians of the Kashmir Valley envy him for his oratory skills. To the children, youth, women and old men, he is the ‘Freedom chacha’, also known as the ‘Pied Piper of Kashmir’.
During the five months of civil uprising in Kashmir, ‘Freedom chacha’ managed to pull crowds wherever he went. His distinct style of sloganeering has proved to be a huge crowd puller even among women and children and that is why Sarjan Barkati, a popular Muslim cleric from south Kashmir, was slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act. He was arrested as he had become a ‘threat to peace’ in the eyes of the government which was unable to control the protests.
Ironically, on Monday, when the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature convened for the Budget Session in Jammu, the Opposition members of the National Conference, Congress and Independent MLAs stormed the Well of the House, they were shouting the same slogans which earned Barkati an unending jail term.
“Yeh pellet-bullet… na bhai na…yeh Pava, shava na bai na…PSA sarkar, na bhai na,” the Opposition members shouted inside the House.
Police says Barkati was instrumental in organising many anti-India rallies across villages and towns of south Kashmir. He popularised “new forms of anti-India sloganeering.” His videos went viral across Kashmir. His unique style earned him a huge following on social media before he was arrested in Anantnag on 1 October. Since then he has been at Kot-Balwal jail in Jammu.
His popular slogans now seem to have influenced the state’s legislators who used his antics inside the Assembly to corner the BJP-PDP government under whose rule close to hundred people were killed during the ongoing unrest.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir told Firstpost on Monday that he was not aware of Barkati, but he said there was nothing wrong with the slogans which his colleagues raised inside the House. “This is an apt slogan for this kind of situation. More than 90 people have been killed, over 15,000 have been injured, more than 500 blinded and thousands are in jails. If we don’t seek answers from the government now, when then?” he said.
“We are in the Opposition, managing the House is the government’s job. Our issues are very clear. We want to know what steps this government took to stop the bloodshed. Why did the government fail to curb the protests,” he added.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rejected the Opposition’s demand to set up an inquiry commission into the recent killings in the valley and took a jibe at the National Conference for “rigging elections” in early 90s which, she said, gave birth to militancy.
“People who sowed seeds of secession by demanding plebiscite in the state also rigged elections in 1987 to give birth to militancy,” she told the House.
The State Legislative Assembly witnessed a massive uproar on the first day of over the month-long Budget Session which started in Jammu on Monday.
With the protests going on, Governor NN Vohra, who was delivering a speech, had left while the National Anthem was being played, prompting the BJP MLA from Nowshehra, Ravinder Ravi, to accuse Vohra of disrespecting the National Anthem.
“This government is without accountability and is careless towards people’s miseries. How can we listen to the Budget speech when people are dying? The brutality is at its peak in Kashmir,” National Conference MLA Ali Muhammad Sagar, said.