Jammu: Crisis due to the ongoing clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir is not only clear and apparent in the Kashmir division, but also has a strong undercurrent in the Jammu division, according to political leaders based in the region.
Scores of political activists and leaders including three former chief ministers of J&K remain under arrest or what the government terms ‘preventive detention’ since August 5, as New Delhi unilaterally abrogated Article 370 and divided the erstwhile state into two union territories.
The decision, which sent shockwaves across the political spectrum of Jammu and Kashmir, has left leaders from Congress party high and dry. Veteran leaders like Raman Bhalla, Vikar Rasool and Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) President Ghulam Ahmad Mir have been serving detention for over a month. Bhalla and Rasool told NewsClick that they are “disheartened about the turn of events”; however, did not elaborate on the crisis due to the “government-imposed restrictions to speak with media”.
The dissent, as of now, according to Mir, is being curbed through arrests and restrictions carried out by law enforcement agencies, and in many cases, is self-imposed due to scores of apprehensions like slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) against any open opposition.
“We are living in an undeclared emergency where all voices from the opposition parties have been silenced due to arrests,” he says.
Mir adds, “There is an attempt being made to compartmentalise different areas of J&K, but the politics of both Kashmir division and Jammu division is intertwined. As of now, situation might look different in both regions, but there will be a united response from the leadership of both the divisions,” he points out.
Particularly, the arrest of octogenarian Member of Parliament from Srinagar constituency, Farooq Abdullah, under the PSA has sent shivers among many younger politicians. Farooq’s incarceration at his house-turned-sub-jail is seen as an example in the present critical situation.
“Farooq sahab was a prime example of pro-Indian politics in Kashmir. When we see him detained under a law like PSA, it indicates how bad the situation is,” says former PDP MLA from Poonch, Shah Mohd Tantray, while speaking to NewsClick.
The clampdown on mainstream politicians and activists in Jammu and Kashmir has overturned years of politics that shaped up in the region especially during the last three decades of turmoil and violence, political leaders say.
According to Congress’ Choudhary Abdul Ghani, there is not much hope left for mainstream politicians especially those from the regional parties. “The only democratic political set up which exists in the region right now rests with panch and sarpanch,” he shares.
Both Ghani and Mir say that the political institutions in the region are faced with a massive challenge to reorganise itself. Mir adds that the leaders in Jammu who had supported abrogation of Article 370 before have started to realise the overall repercussions of the decision.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a special territory surrounded by international borders on three sides and events that affect small areas like in Pir Panjal or Kashmir Valley affect the national politics of the country. It is important to look at J&K in a unique, special perspective,” Mir says. He adds, “Many leaders I spoke to in Jammu have now realised the repercussions of altering the politics and especially dismembering of the state into two union territories.”
Political activists in Jammu also see the detention of Choudhary Lal Singh as an indicator of “muzzling all forms of political dissent”.
“Lal Singh was a vehement proponent of the abrogation of special status of J&K and even supported it earlier month in the beginning, but even he was put under house arrest,” a political activist who wished anonymity told NewsClick adding that many like himself and Lal Singh who hailed Dogra pride in Jammu are sensing the loss now.
“I always believed Jammu was ignored on all fronts, but now I feel that will of the people of both the divisions has been ignored. It is also apparent in the local leadership of the BJP, they also feel a sense of loss,” the activist says.
The politicians NewsClick spoke with, however, say that regional parties like NC and PDP have also contributed to the ongoing crisis. The boycott of local body and sarpanch elections caused a great harm to the overall electoral politics, according to them.
The politicians in Jammu division are mobilising to prepare for Block Development Council (BDC) elections. Many like Mir say it is important to participate in these elections; however, due to their detention, he fears things might turn even worse. “If the situation continues to remain as it is, there will no elections, it will be a selection by New Delhi,” he says.