Srinagar: Members of the Jammu and Kashmir’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were barred from attending a meeting the party had called here on Thursday – for the first time in 13 months – triggering sharp criticism.
The party had invited as many as 21 senior office bearers and leaders at its Srinagar headquarters at around 11 am. The members however, were not allowed outside their homes by security personnel guarding them.
“This reflects the truth of Kashmir, where millions have been made voiceless. If this could happen to us who have served in the government, who have been part of the system, one can imagine the fate of others,” senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar told NewsClick.
Akhtar, a former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government between 2015 and 2018, said that the party was meeting to discuss the prevailing political situation and general party affairs. “We had no plans to protest. We were just gathering to take a stock of the situation. There is no law that could detain us,” he added.
The meeting was called by the party general secretary G.N. Lone Hanjura. Its president, former CM Mehbooba Mufti, continues to remain incarcerated since August 5 last year, when authorities arrested all political leaders, workers and activists along with over 7,000 others in the region as a measure to thwart any opposition to the abrogation of Article 370. Regional parties, referred to as ‘mainstream’ outfits for their participation in the Indian electoral process, have since become what they term victims of “political persecution”, despite having been pro-India all the while.
Party spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said that they will continue to “fight” using democratic and constitutional means. The party is a signatory to the Gupkar Declaration, an opposition of six parties that have resolved to fight the government’s unilateral August 5 decision. It was only hours after the regional parties held a joint meeting at National Conference president Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar residence on August 4, that the leadership was detained in the wake of their opposition to the decision.
The members were released after months in a phased manner, and authorities in Kashmir have since said there are no restrictions on the majority of the leaders.
“They have been saying that they are free, they can go anywhere. Today you have seen yourselves that they were not allowed out from their homes, so they continue to be under illegal detention,” Bukhari said.
“Our story: a year of unfreedom and many claims later we were told we are free now. But, when we try to attend the first party meet post August 5 they told us we are under detention. Question now is how choking our space in the name of law and order is contributing to the so called ‘peace’ (sic),” PDP leader Waheed ur Rahman Para wrote on Twitter.
Para added that the mental toll due to the detentions is not only “cruel but also unconstitutional and vindictive.”
Pertinently, earlier last month, the National Conference (NC) held its first party meeting a year after the abrogation move.