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'Denial of Democracy', J&K parties Decry Over Political Situation

Anees Zargar |
It has been nearly a decade since the Assembly elections were held last time in 2014.

Srinagar: The political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir believes that the region is witnessing one of the worst phases in the absence of an elected government and growing restrictions on people's democratic rights.

The J&K Peoples Conference (JKPC), in a meeting led by President Sajad Lone, expressed anguish regarding the current state of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir; it said it has been relegated to mere "tokenism".

"It is with great sorrow that we observe the continuous denial of democracy and statehood in J&K. It is disheartening that amidst a population of 1.4 billion people in our nation, not a single soul outside the state seems visibly perturbed by the denial of democracy and statehood to J&K," the party said.

The PC leadership also appealed to all political parties not to visit J&K as part of Parliament Standing Committees overseeing development in Union Territories, they claimed, as the participation meant endorsement of the decision to downgrade J&K to a Union Territory.

"We implore all concerned stakeholders, both within the state and across the nation, to reflect upon the gravity of the situation and unite in our quest to restore democracy and statehood to Jammu and Kashmir," the party said.

Earlier on Tuesday, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah pulled up the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led establishment for unnecessary delay in holding Assembly elections. Abdullah said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve an answer about elections.

"If there is a vacuum, as observed by the election commission itself, why is not that vacuum being filled? Let the Election Commission of India show some courage and say they are under pressure for not holding the elections. We will also not beg for it," Abdullah told reporters in Srinagar.

Most parties in the region have been critical of the BJP, especially the NC and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti. They have accused the former of mishandling the region with iron fist policies in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and the subsequent downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union territory in 2019. It has been nearly a decade since the Assembly elections were held last time in 2014. After the PDP-BJP coalition government was formed, the BJP broke off in 2018, leaving the region under central rule.

The situation in the Jammu region – considered a BJP bastion – has also emerged as concerning, with local parties alleging the party has distanced itself from public issues.

A former BJP ally, Dogra Swabhimaan Sangathan party leader Choudhary Lal Singh on Wednesday condemned the UT administration, which he said has been working arbitrarily and against the Dogras – the majority ethnic population in Jammu.

"The government is quite insensitive towards the genuine issues of the public and breaking all rules and regulations with impunity which is clear in its so-called demolition drive," Singh was quoted in a party statement. 

Singh has since advocated for a separate Jammu state with Article 371 as a constitutional safeguard. This demand has also taken root in the newly carved out Ladakh UT, where local stakeholders have organised massive protests for similar constitutional safeguards.

The authorities have often been accused of arbitrarily introducing laws and regulations, silencing media and cracking down on dissenting voices, which many believe have worsened the situation in the region. The law enforcement agencies have raided over 100 locations in the past months and seized properties worth hundreds of crores. 

On Thursday, an amalgam of over 40 valley-based religious organisations, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulama Jammu and Kashmir (MMU), expressed concern over the summoning of its President and leading Islamic scholar Maulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi by the National Investigation Agency.

Maulana Rehmatullah, a renowned Islamic scholar and reformer, was summoned by the agency in a "terror funding" case on June 7. In its statement, the MMU said that such actions are "causing anxiety and anger among the people and urged the govt to put a stop to this."

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