Srinagar: Dozens of workers and party members of regional political parties, including National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), held a protest in Srinagar on Saturday against the delimitation commission’s recent proposal that the parties have rejected.
The protests were carried in the capital city after People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a loose coalition of regional parties formed to advocate the restoration of Article 370 and 35 A, had called for protest against the Delimitation Commission’s first draft that suggested addition of six new seats to Jammu region and one to Kashmir.
Senior PAGD leaders, however, claimed that the authorities put them under restrictions at their respective residences in Gupkar to impede the protests.
“In Kashmir, New Year began on another disappointing note where Police resumed their work of scuttling the legitimate voices and squeezing democratic space by cracking down on protest against Delimitation Commission. Entire PAGD leadership including me have been put under house arrest,” PAGD spokesperson M Y Tarigami said.
The authorities also restricted transport movement towards Srinagar’s Gupkar road, where PAGD leaders live, by barricading the entry point and heightened security in the area. Many party workers were, however, able to carry out separate protest rallies close to their party offices.
Carrying placards that read “Our honour, Our Dignity – 370” and “Restore 370 and 35 A”, the protesters also raised slogans like ‘Down with Black Laws’. Their march was limited to interior roads after police stopped them from moving toward the main road.
“We are holding a peaceful protest under the programme given by PAGD. There is no democracy but, what we are witnessing is the funeral of democracy. We want the restoration of Article 370 and 35 A and resolution of Kashmir issue,” a PDP worker said.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah and NC’s vice-president Omar Abdullah also confirmed his house arrest through an update on Twitter. “Good morning & welcome to 2022. A new year with the same J&K police illegally locking people in their homes & an administration so terrified of normal democratic activity. Trucks parked outside our gates to scuttle the peaceful JKPAGD sit-in protest. Some things never change,” he wrote.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti made scathing remarks against the BJP-led government in Delhi and accused them of being “intolerant.”
“GOI trumpets scrapping Article 370 & dismembering J&K throughout the country but is deeply paranoid & intolerant when people of J&K want to protest against its disempowerment. For the umpteenth time, we’ve been placed under house arrest for trying to organise a peaceful protest,” Mufti tweeted.
Terming attempts of the administration to foil the protests as “despotic”, she added that her party’s workers managed to hit the streets to raise their voice against what she called the illegal revocation of Article 370.
In December, the Delimitation Commission, chaired by Justice (Retd.) Ranjana Prakash Desai, suggested to add six new constituencies to Jammu division and only one additional seat to Kashmir province. The leaders from PAGD have expressed their displeasure over these recommendations. The proposal, many argue, is aimed to give Jammu region – a stronghold of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – an upper hand over Kashmir contrary to set constitutional parameters.
Meanwhile, a shutdown was observed in parts of Srinagar over the recent real estate summit in which the government inked deals and called for investments from corporates during a summit in Jammu many claim is a step toward altering the region’s demography. The locals in Old City area shut their shops and business establishments against the deal terming it an “aggression”.
“We oppose the government’s unilateral decisions for inviting investments here. This is not a normal business invite but simply aimed to further disempower us,” a local resident of Srinagar said wishing anonymity.
The regional political parties including NC, PDP and others opposed the call for investment and alleged that the land resources in the erstwhile state was being put up for “sale”.