Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have booked a National Conference (NC) youth leader, Tariq Ahmed, for being an “anti-national” and an alleged “sympathiser” of Hurriyat Conference.
NC that many see as a direct rival of Hurriyat has termed these charges against one of its youth leaders as “baseless.”
Tariq, a resident of Hollan Banihal, was arrested along with another local, Tanvir Ahmad, three days ago from Banihal town of Ramban district and sent to Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu. The administration has slapped Tariq with the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) on charges that include promoting enmity between communities and organising strike calls.
“The subject is involved in anti-national activities within the jurisdiction of police station Banihal, and its surrounding areas. The subject is involved in organising the hartals, bands in Banihal area on the instance and call given by Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir valley,” the PSA order of 40-year-old reads.
Over 100 km from Srinagar city and 155 km from Jammu city, Banihal is a rural area perched on the top hills of Pir Panjal range. The jugular highway that connects Kashmir valley to the outside world runs between Banihal.
In a statement issued against Tariq’s detention, NC’s spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said the party’s youth leader has been at the “forefront of a peaceful agitation demanding due compensation to families, whose lands were procured by the government for the purpose of four-laning of Jammu –Srinagar National Highway at Banihal.”
“The crackdown is an overboard attempt to choke a critical voice. He is only being punished for his outspokenness,” Dar said.
The PSA dossier, a copy of which lies with NewsClick, claims that Tariq has been allegedly instigating people against the “democratically established” government of J&K.
“The subject in connivance with the like-minded people of the area conducted meetings at unknown places with the intention to instigate the youth against the nation and to direct them to the obsession of freedom,” the ground of detention read.
The arrest comes within a month after the regional political leadership were invited to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, a move that was seen as a first outreach from Delhi since the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent mass arrest of regional political leaders and activists which included three former chief ministers of J&K.
The parties, including NC and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had urged the government to ease the situation that many believe, has been strained by excessive use of force by police and armed forces and the continued arbitrary detentions of dissenters.
Ifra Jan, who was recently appointed as the additional spokesperson of NC, told NewsClick that laws like PSA were being “selectively” used against the leaders of her party.
"We have a situation where putting Opposition leaders and grass root workers under detention for prolonged period is the new 'normal', done very clearly to sabotage democracy in J&K. It is a clear sabotage of the Constitution itself,” Ifra said.
Thousands have been detained either on charges of preventive detentions or have been slapped with controversial laws like PSA and UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) in Kashmir in past years, something that has been highlighted by international rights bodies, including the United Nations.
Ifra also sees detention of Tariq as part of a larger political game-plan and a measure to “erode the power of people”.
“It is a slow but definite step towards disenfranchising people of J&K. No matter which party they want to vote for, as their Right under the Constitution, only some parties will be allowed to survive,” she added.