“The political parties also sense that the Centre might hold elections soon, so they have begun preparations.”
SRINAGAR — In a bid to reassert themselves, the major mainstream political parties of Kashmir have begun a public outreach. The outreach began days after the dormant factions of Hurriyat Conference issued a shutdown call in the aftermath of Hyderpora gunfight in which three civilians and a militant were killed.
The factions of the Hurriyat issued statements calling for a shutdown against the killings and also “asserted the resolution of Kashmir dispute”.
The two major political parties, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party held public rallies in Pir Panchal and Chenab valley. The two parties were led by their presidents and former Jammu and Kashmir state chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. It was Omar’s first visit to the region since the unilateral revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The visit of the two leaders is also seen as a preparation for the assembly elections. Although the poll dates haven’t been announced yet, the mainstream parties hope that elections would be held in a couple of months, after the delimitation process gets over.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has earlier said that the assembly elections in J&K would be held once the delimitation process is done.
The deadline for the submission of the delimitation commission has been set in March 2022, which has triggered the speculations that the election would be held soon after that.
Three senior J&K leaders Mehbooba, Omar, and Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad have addressed public rallies in Pir Panchal and Chenab region, attracting a decent crowd.
National Conference Vice President, Omar Abdullah while addressing political rallies during his visit to Chenab Valley targeted the Union government for reading down the special status of J&K and also blamed the People’s Democratic Party leader, Late Mufti Muhammad Syed, for creating an alliance with the BJP after the assembly election results in 2014.
He said that he had extended a hand of friendship to Mufti to save J&K from the wrong intentions of BJP and suggested to him that the alliance with BJP will prove dangerous for the erstwhile state. He said that having their own obligations, PDP created the alliance with BJP.
Omar criticised Azad for calling the restoration of Article 370 futile and also blamed the Congress for not defending the Article 370 strongly. He vowed to continue his fight for the restoration of special status and statehood.
Veteran Congress leader and former leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad had sought restoration of statehood along with the land and job reservations for people while addressing a series of rallies in his hometown of Bhaderwah in Doda and other places. Azad also said that “it is now time to move beyond Article 370.”
Mehbooba did not react to the comments made by Omar. She said that the party has other more important things to look for right now. She said that this is the time that they (all parties) need to be united, not fight amongst themselves and called for a united struggle to seek the restoration of special status.
“We are fighting for a larger cause. The internal rivalries among regional parties can make the ‘cause’ suffer. Right now we have to stand united and focus on getting back whatever was stolen from us,” Tahir Sayeed, a PDP spokesperson said.
He said that after Mehbooba Mufti was released in 2020, since then the party has been holding public programs/rallies across J&K. “Whatever we are doing right now is merely to reach out to secluded and disillusioned people on the ground and it has nothing to do with elections,” he asserted.
Mehbooba Mufti held a number of public gatherings at various places in Jammu and Kashmir. She also addressed public rallies in several areas of Pir Panchal and Chenab during her week-long visit to the region.
Sayeed said that after the abrogation of Article 370, the situation has turned worrisome like in the 1990s. “People have been booked under draconian terror laws like UAPA and PSA for anything and everything, employees are being terminated, questions are being raised on encounters like in Hyderpora, Rambagh, and HMT.” He said people are living in fear and there is a sense of insecurity in them. “They need us right now.”
Mufti who is currently in Delhi staged a protest outside Jantar Mantar on Monday against what she called “the continuous repression” of the people of J&K and demanded the bloodshed in the valley be stopped.
On Tuesday, Mufti told media in Delhi that she will not contest elections until Article 370 is restored but the party will contest elections. “Of course we will take part in elections in the future, we will not cede any space to them and I won’t contest the elections till Article 370 is restored,” she said.
The ruling BJP in 2019 read down the special status of J&K and downgraded the state into a UT and has been justifying the decision since then by saying that they have done it to pave the way for peace and development of the region. The party claimed that the Article 370 was the main hurdle in the development of the region.
However, the situation on the ground is contradictory to the claims of the ruling party. The violence in the region has increased with October this year marking the bloodiest month since 2019. At least 44 people were killed in gunfights, targeted killings, and other attacks. The slain include civilians, militants, policemen, and army personnel.
Professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a renowned Kashmiri political analyst said that after the abrogating of Article 370, the Centre remained on the backfoot since the situation remained as it was.
Commenting on the renewed political activity in the region, Dr Hussain said New Delhi is scared and sceptical as the abrogation of the Article had international repercussions especially on the China border from the Ladakh region. “The recent killings invoked the public resentment and augmented all factions of Hurriyat Conference to reassert themselves. The political parties also sensed that the Centre might hold elections soon, so they indulged in its preparations,” he said.