Singer 'Freedom Chacha' Arrested in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir police has arrested a man whose signature sloganeering pulled massive crowds in south Kashmir, the centre of the civil uprising that broke out in the valley following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani.
In the ongoing crackdown against pro-freedom and anti-India protesters in the valley, Sarjan Ahmad Barkati, a "senior leader" of Ummat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (UIJK), was arrested at Wanpoh village in Kulgam on Saturday.
According to a UIJK statement, Barkati, a resident of Reban village in Shopian, was slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act, a controversial legislation described by rights group Amnesty International as a "lawless law" that gives sweeping investigative powers to police.
Barkati, who shot to fame after a freedom song, denouncing the use of pellets while calling for freedom from India, went viral on social media. In the video, Barkati is seen encircled by nearly 100 protesters who respond to his slogans with the roar of 'Azadi'.
The video had earned Barkati the sobriquet of 'Freedom Chacha'.
"We were looking for him since the video came out. He is a crowd puller who led protest marches in parts of south Kashmir. His compositions have become popular among the miscreants across Kashmir which is ultimately a threat to law and order," a senior police officer said, requesting anonymity.
He said 'Freedom Chacha' has organised or led nearly 140 rallies in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts of south Kashmir over the last three months.
According to family sources, Barkati, a self-confessed Sufi who spent most of his time in studying religion and praying, was attracted towards the streets by the mayhem that has been unfolding in Kashmir.
"He never visited home after joining protests, though we used to hear about him, and his speeches and rallies from different people," a family member said, requesting anonymity.
The arrest of Barkati is part of the larger crackdown launched by the PDP-BJP coalition government headed by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to break the cycle of protests and killings which have kept Kashmir on the edge.
According to well-informed sources, over 3000 people have been either detained or arrested by police over the last three months to contain the civil uprising which broke out following Burhan's killing in an encounter on July 8.
Most of the detainees and those arrested are pro-freedom protesters with many of them affiliated with different Hurriyat groups or sympathisers of resistance politics.
However, the crackdown has not been limited to separatists alone. Earlier, a prominent human rights activist, Khurram Pervez, was arrested and slapped with PSA by police.
At least 88 civilians have been killed, most of them teenagers, while as over 12,000 have suffered firearm injuries during retaliatory action against protesters by security forces in the valley over last three months.