Srinagar: Political parties are yet to recover from the fallout in Kashmir as their top leadership continue to remain incarcerated more than three months after they were arrested by authorities in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.
On November 17, more than 30 politicians were shifted to another location turned jail from Srinagar’s Centaur hotel. This was two days after former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was transferred from state huts in Cheshma Shahi to another state accommodation at MA Road. The reason cited for the latest transfer of the leaders to Srinagar’s MLA hostel was the dip in temperature.
Sources privy to the details of the transfer told NewsClick that many of the leaders including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) allies like Sajad Lone were caught up in a scuffle with the security personnel at the new sub-jail. Lone was allegedly asked to remove clothes while being searched which prompted others to intervene, creating a commotion. “They were complaining about the behaviour of the security personnel which led to the commotion,” the official said.
Scores of politicians including three former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir are currently under arrest, in what the administration has termed as “preventive detention”.
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The politicians include leadership from several regional political parties like People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti, People’s Conference (PC) led by Sajad Lone, the region’s grand old party National Conference (NC) led by Farooq Abdullah and the recently formed Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM) led by civil servant-turned-politician Shah Faesal, who launched the party only a year ago.
NC’s octogenarian president Farooq Abdullah, who has been slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA), is the current Member of Parliament from Srinagar parliamentary constituency.
Earlier last week, on Thursday, November 14, the newly appointed lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir Girish Chandra Murmu suggested the holding of Assembly polls in the region that was recently bifurcated and was changed from a state into a union territory.
"Election will come. It is a union territory with a legislature, it will not continue like this (LG's rule)," the governor had said. Murmu was addressing a function of the police department held in the Jammu region’s Talwara area of Reasi district.
Even as the statement may have come as a relief for political parties in the region, many believe it doesn’t change the state of affairs on the ground that are, according to them, deeply adversarial presently. Party members in Kashmir claim they are currently under severe political pressure and the crisis since last three months has created a vacuum in the regional politics.
“There is no scope in discussing elections right now when all of our party leadership is under arrest. We are currently thinking and working on the issue of bringing the pre-August 5 position back,” NC’s Hasnain Masoodi told NewsClick.
Masoodi, who is the sitting MP from Anantnag parliamentary constituency, said that he is focused on the proceedings at Supreme Court where he has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue.
“This is not a normal time for our party. We haven’t been allowed to meet our party leadership for nearly a month now and we can’t even discuss anything with them,” he said.
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Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that holding of elections in the region is not possible as long as the atmosphere is not conducive enough for the polls. “There are multiple concerns to be taken into account before the decision is taken and to hold elections democratically there has to be a level playing field for all the parties,” he said.
Earlier in October, Block Development Council (BDC) polls were held in J&K where BJP was pitched against mostly independents as the regional parties had boycotted the elections.
The right-wing BJP is currently the only party which has been able to organise two major political rallies in Srinagar city while the rest of the parties continue to struggle with crisis. Recently, bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal’s newly established party JKPM was forced to vacate its party headquarters in Srinagar as the party stands disorganised due to Faesal’s detention.