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J&K: Jailed Leader Engineer Rasheed to Fight Lok Sabha Polls From Baramulla

Anees Zargar |
The AIP leader has been in jail since 2019, booked under the UAPA for allegedly being part of a “conspiracy related to secessionist and terrorist activities in J&K”.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Srinagar: The Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) on Sunday held a core-group meeting following which it said that they will field incarcerated leader Abdul Rasheed Sheikh aka Engineer Rasheed in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

The party said that Rasheed, 57, who is currently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail since 2019, will be contesting from North Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency. The decision, according to the party’s spokesperson, was taken unanimously by the party members including the party's political affairs committee headed by Ishtiyaq Qadri. 

“It was taken keeping in view the aspirations of the voters and we will be contesting on all five constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir,” party spokesperson Firdous Baba said.

This is the first such announcement made by any political party regarding candidates in Jammu and Kashmir where regional parties have been demanding elections for years now. The authorities, however, have delayed elections citing several reasons including the security situation. Earlier, the government also delayed the Urban Local Body (ULB) polls that were expected to be held later this year.

Engineer Rasheed, a former lawmaker from Assembly constituency, Langate, was arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in August 2019 and was booked under the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the first mainstream politician to face such charges.

The law enforcement agency accused Rasheed of being a part of “conspiracy related to secessionist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and was accused of allegedly using public platforms to propagate the ideology of separatism.

Baba told NewsClick that the decision regarding the parliamentary polls was taken after the authorities made it clear that the Assembly and the ULB polls were not being held anytime soon.

“The AIP is a mainstream political party that believes in electoral politics so we have to be ready for these polls. We are going to fight for all the seats in the upcoming parliamentary polls and the decision about the other four candidates will also be taken soon,” Baba told NewsClick. 

The spokesperson said that party workers and supporters are optimistic that the jailed leader will be released before the elections are held.

“The political landscape and the elections are meaningless in J&K unless Rasheed is released from prison. We are fighting a legal battle and hope that he is released before the polls. Even if not, our Constitution gives people the right to contest even if they are in prison,” Baba said.

The influence of AIP exists mostly in North Kashmir with Rasheed as its main face. He is known as a firebrand politician and a vocal critic of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Before his arrest and the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A, Engineer Rasheed announced a pre-poll alliance for the next Assembly polls with the then bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal and called it People’s United Front (PUF).

The alliance carried out a signature campaign in July 2019 with an aim to save Articles 35-A and 370 and against the proposed delimitation exercise. The alliance did not last in the wake of political upheaval that followed. Faesal, who was also detained following the revocation of Article 370, has since left politics and joined back the administrative services. He has since become a firm supporter of the BJP leadership.

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