In the first major political development in the Valley post the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, a 15-member National Conference delegation Sunday met detained leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah in Srinagar, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it had got permission to meet PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.
Emerging from the meeting, the NC said Farooq and Omar Abdullah were “pained and anguished about the recent developments” and ruled out participation in the coming local body polls till they were released.
Omar has been detained at Hari Niwas since August 5, the day the Centre abrogated Article 370. After spending over 30 minutes with the former chief minister and NC vice-president, the NC leaders drove to the residence of NC chief Farooq Abdullah, who is being held under the stringent Public Safety Act. Separately, NC MPs Hasnain Masoodi and Akbar Lone also met the Abdullahs.
WATCH: Two months into detention, Farooq Abdullah meets NC leaders; flashes 'victory' sign
Farooq and Omar Abdullah emerged to see the NC leaders off, and Farooq was clicked waving to the assembled photographers.
While the PDP earlier said Sunday that a 16-member delegation comprising senior party leaders and former legislators would leave for Srinagar on Monday morning to meet Mufti, who is also under detention since August 5, PTI reported late at night that the meeting had been deferred. There was no official word on the reason, or when the PDP leaders would go now.
It would have been the first meeting of PDP leaders from Jammu province with Mufti since her detention.
The NC leaders had got permission on Thursday from the administration to meet Omar and Farooq.
Referring to the Block Development Council (BDC) polls announced for October 24, with results the same day, the leaders said the NC would not be a party to them. “In the present situation and circumstances, when the entire political leadership is behind bars — they are under house arrest or detained — the question of any political activity does not arise,” Masoodi told The Indian Express after meeting the two party leaders.
Bid to kick off political activity
With Block Development Council elections less than three weeks from now, the government has for the first time allowed some political activity since the clampdown began. Letting NC, PDP leaders meet the Abdullahs and Mufti is a first step in re-building political space.
On the Centre’s promise to start releasing the leaders soon, Masoodi said, “Let them do it. So far, nothing has been done.”
NC provincial president (Jammu) Devender Singh Rana, who led the delegation comprising ex-legislators of the party belonging to the Jammu region, said, “Any election to be held under such a situation will be meaningless… There is a complete lockdown. If the political process has to start, these people have to be released… See the case of the National Conference. Even if we want to contest the BDC elections… (in) the panchayats that exist… we have to get the (permission) signed by party president Farooq Abdullah… The party general secretary who has to propose the name out of a panel of prospective candidates is also detained… Let them be released, then the working committee of the party will meet and formulate a strategy.”
Rana added, “We are happy that both (Farooq and Omar Abdullah) are well and in high spirits. Of course, they are pained and anguished about the developments, particularly the lockdown of the people, and we as a party appeal that for the political process to start and democracy to revive in Jammu and Kashmir, political deteneus anywhere and everywhere, whether from the mainstream political parties or otherwise who have no criminal records, may be released and the hearts and minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are won.”
The brother of Union minister Jitendra Singh Rana, Rana had himself been allowed to move out of home after nearly two months, on Wednesday, and approached the Governor to let an NC delegation meet the Abdullahs to decide the party’s next political steps. He was among the nearly dozen non-BJP leaders in Jammu against whom restrictions were lifted Wednesday evening, following the announcement of the BDC polls. Mainstream politicians in Kashmir continue to be under detention.
Former PDP legislator and spokesperson Firdous Tak announced postponement of the party’s visit to Srinagar to meet Mufti. Hours earlier, he had said that they had requested Governor Satya Pal Malik to let them meet the PDP chief, and that the District Magistrate, Srinagar, told them they could meet her in Srinagar at noon Monday. He had also said the PDP delegation would be led by general secretary Ved Mahajan.
PTI reported that sources within the PDP said the visit had been deferred because of the lack of unanimity on the composition of the delegation.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Election Commission had announced BDC elections in the state on October 24, to be held on “party lines”. It will be the first time that the state will see BDC polls.
While the BJP and Congress have said they would contest, the CPM too has said it can’t as long as mainstream politicians, including its former legislator M Y Tarigami, continue to be detained.
Congress chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said in Jammu Saturday that the party would participate in the BDC elections “for the sake of democracy” and “in the interest of the people”.