In a major revelation, a verbal direction has been issued by the state administration of Jammu and Kashmir, directing nomads, Gujjars and Bakarwals, to halt travelling from Jammu to Kashmir until the elections are over.
Speaking to NewsClick, Yasar Chaudhary, All Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakarwal Youth president (Jammu province) confirmed that a verbal direction has been given to them. “Deputy Commissioner told the Gujjar Bakarwals that they should not travel in the backdrop of the elections. We are being told that once the elections are over, we will be allowed to move. I believe that they have done it in order to avoid untoward activities amid the elections. Nomads from Jammu city, Reasi, Kathua and other areas have been told so. We didn’t get any government order, but we have been verbally asked by the administration not to travel.”
The decision has drawn flak from Gujjars and Bakarwals, some of whom are calling the direction “an act of repression”. A Gujjar Bakarwal activist, Anwar Chaudhary, told NewsClick, “This direction is insensitive and repressive. Generally, Kashmiri Gujjars and Bakarwals’ participation in the voting process is less, as they are nomadic. But many of those who can, are in the migration phase. They need to reach the destination to cast their vote. Also, this direction reveals that Gujjars and Bakarwals are not at all important to the government. It’s saddening. Our pleas have always fallen on the deaf ears.”
Meanwhile, People’s Democratic Party Chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti has sought revocation of this order, and has said that it was an “insensitive decision.” In her tweet, Mufti wrote, “Administration in J&K is on a spree of taking ridiculous decisions one after another. Not allowing nomads/Gujjars to transport their cattle from Jammu to Kashmir is an insensitive one, as they cannot wait till their elections are over. Spoke to @jandkgovernor & he assured help.”
Series of crackdowns in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing a series of crackdowns ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2019. It started with the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir and a ban on Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and now a ban on the highway traffic has been imposed. There have been arrests of the separatist leaders, and threats to roll back Article 370 and 35 A.
Speaking to NewsClick, an agitated Kashmiri, said, “Government wants us to vote after such decisions. Government bans Jamaat in a Muslim-majority state – the ones who never participated in or supported the armed struggle. Every day, they make us realise that they want the land, and not the people. And then during the elections, how can they ask us to vote?”
Recently, a group of concerned citizens, including government servants, academics, analysts and civil society members had written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, expressing “immense distress” over the series of developments that have taken place. The letter read: “In these conditions, what kind of a turnout can we expect in the valley? Taken together, the policy of President’ rule, counter-insurgency, crackdowns and arrests, combined with threats to roll-back Articles 370 and 35 A and alterations to the administrative structure of the state, provide formidable disincentives to vote.”
The letter has urged Singh to revoke the existing orders.
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