Srinagar: Hundreds of leaders and activists, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, have been detained since August 5. The administration termed their arrest a ‘preventive measure’ to thwart any revolt in view of the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories.
A similar crackdown preceded the outbreak of armed insurgency following the Assembly elections in 1987. Many termed the crackdown a primary cause for the din that followed in the 1990s. J&K’s grand old party -- National Conference -- which emerged victorious in the 1987 elections, is now facing an even bigger clampdown, along with other major political party of the state – People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
There are a few politicians who have not been put under a similar detention so far. NewsClick interviewed NC’s senior leader, Akbar Lone, in Srinagar. Lone is a Member of Parliament from Baramulla constituency in North Kashmir. Edited excerpts:
How did you spend the last 15 days?
Since August 5, we tried to meet others but couldn’t because people are under house arrest. We are tried to get in touch with common people but to no avail. We also tried meeting Farooq Saab (Abdullah) but we were not allowed. I, however, met my son Hilal, who is detained along with party leaders Ali Sagar, Mubarak Gul, Bashir Veeri and others at SKICC (Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre). Justice Hasnain Masoodi accompanied me. We talked to them.
How are your son and other leaders?
They are inside a jail, trapped but, they looked fine, apparently.
There are reports of many politicians being shifted outside the state. Has any of your colleague been shifted outside Srinagar?
No, no one from our party has been shifted outside.
Any specific grounds for detention?
It is andha kanoon (blind justice). Anyone can be arrested on those grounds.
When was your son arrested?
He was arrested on August 6 from his residential quarter in Tulsibagh (Srinagar).
How do you see the current siege and clampdown on NC?
Whatever you call it, a crackdown or detentions, such measures have been taken earlier by the government. There have been attempts to curb political parties in J&K from time to time. But this time it has gone beyond limits. Common people are also suffering. Everyone believes it is very unfortunate, beyond expectations. We were not
expecting such a situation would be created for us.
How do you see mainstream political parties as a space which existed here before abrogation of Article 370?
You should ask this question to Modi ji. We dedicated our lives to Hindustan and in return they put us behind bars. It is quite apparent now that they do not trust us.
Do you think there is a future in mainstream politics?
Yes, there is. Even more, vis-a-vis Kashmir. We will work to keep up the spirit of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
What is the way forward now?
After God, it depends on people; once the restrictions are over and when people come out on streets. We will see which path they take and that will determine the course.