The Jammu and Kashmir police have either detained or restricted the movements of most separatist leaders, who invariably issue a boycott call during polls. The separatists say that by denying them a level playing field, the government has conceded defeat.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the Hurriyat’s hardline faction, is under house detention, while leaders of his group are behind bars to to prevent them for campaigning for a boycott. Police have been deployed outside the house of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction. And activists Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan have all been detained.
“The message is loud and clear: nobody will be allowed to create any kind of disturbance (during the elections),” Kashmir’s IGP Abdul Gani Mir said.
Geelani has called for boycott of a number of polls. This time, moderate separatists too have called for a boycott. In the past, they would term the elections a non-issue. This, police sources say, is one of the reasons for the crackdown. In the parliamentary polls, many people had skipped voting.
The separatists call the police action their “first victory”. “The government is denying a level playing field to us,” says Mirwaiz. “By arresting Hurriyat leaders and cadres, the government has already conceded defeat”.
Mirwaiz adds, “One has to understand that for India, elections are a democratic process. But that democracy and those democratic rights are altogether missing in Kashmir,” he said. “To call for a boycott or to campaign for it peacefully are a democratic right but the Indian state has no respect for opposition.”
Geelani echoed: “This has exposed India and these so-called elections. It is not a democracy, it is a farce. First they choke opposition voices and then conduct elections. It shows that India is not a democracy”.