Awami National Conference president Begum Khalida Shah has described the current clampdown on the political leadership in Kashmir as the worst she has witnessed.
“This time, the government has been harsher than at any time that I can remember in the past. They have surpassed all previous episodes of atrocity,” said Shah, who is former CM Farooq Abdullah’s elder sister.
Speaking to The Indian Express at her home, where she has been detained since August 5, she said this was the first time in her 84 years that she had been placed under custody. “I remember when my father (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah) was fighting for Kashmir. We were in Gulmarg in 1953 and the military took him away. Even then, the family was not harmed, the reason was (Article) 370. This time, we have all been held hostage on account of ‘the situation’ which they (the government) have themselves created.”
She added, “All the signatories of the Gupkar declaration of August 4, they will all come together, and we will demand restoration of Article 370 in its original shape, with all its original guarantees.”
Shah said that despite verbal orders on November 14 that the family was free to step out of their house in Srinagar, “we were warned not to participate in protests or hold press briefings”. However, she said, as they tried to visit her sister, the security called for the gates to be locked again. “We are yet to be told why we are not allowed to go out,” she added.
Describing the revocation of special status as the “removal of the soul from the body”, she said, “We are at least within our homes, look at how they are preparing the MLA hostel for moving those held at SKICC. The windows are being blocked with plyboard sheets. Is this how you keep human beings?”
Referring to the clampdown over the last three months, Shah said that the people of the Valley are treading carefully, “but once they decide it is time to resist this, they will not turn back”.
However, she said she had not lost hope. “I believe strongly that this won’t stay either. The BJP is already losing its grip. They owe their majority to every single Kashmiri, they won their majority through Pulwama and Balakot,” she said.