DESPITE THE government’s assertion that mainstream political leaders in the Kashmir Valley are not under house detention and are free to step out, senior leaders of the PDP said Thursday that they had to cancel a party meeting because police did not let them leave their homes.
The meeting, scheduled to be held at the PDP office in Srinagar, was to be the party’s first official gathering since the abrogation of Article 370 last year. “We have cancelled the meeting. The leaders weren’t allowed to move out of their houses. I was not allowed to move out,” PDP general secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone, who had called the meeting, told The Indian Express.
“Why are we the only party that is not being allowed to meet? Why are only our leaders under house detention? Why has the PSA been extended only against our leader Mehbooba (Mufti) ji? It seems the government is afraid of us,” he said.
According to Lone, the party had written to senior officials in the J&K administration, including Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir), IGP (Kashmir), Deputy Commissioner (Srinagar) and SSP (Srinagar), informing them about the meeting to be held indoors.
When contacted, Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) K Pandurang Pole told The Indian Express: “Their letter was only for information…they did not ask for permission so the question of rejecting it does not arise. The DM (Srinagar) has acknowledged their letter and sent them the SOPs with regard to Covid.”
Sources said the authorities had also “advised” the PDP in an email sent to its spokesperson to “refer to provisions in the notification about SOPs issued by the State Executive Committee under the Disaster Management Act”. The latest guidelines allow for such meetings only after September 21.
The PDP letter, signed by Lone and dated September 1, states: “The Peoples Democratic Party is convening a meeting of its senior leaders at the party headquarters in Srinagar on 3rd of September 2020 at 1100 hrs. Since only the senior leaders are participating, it won’t be a huge gathering and we would ensure that the measures and protocols with regard to COVID 19 pandemic are adhered to during the meeting.”
PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari confirmed that he received an email from the administration on Wednesday night. “But do the pandemic guidelines apply only to PDP? What about other political gatherings taking place in Kashmir? Also, what are the reasons for not allowing PDP leaders to leave their homes in other districts?” Bukhari said.
Over the last two weeks, the government has allowed meetings of the National Conference, including that of its Political Affairs Committee (PAC), while the BJP and the Centre-backed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party have continued to engage in political activities.
Pole did not respond to a query on the political activities by other parties. But senior administration sources said that at the moment, the government is not keen on allowing “a formal organisation and political activities by the PDP”.
According to PDP, the leaders, who weren’t allowed to move out, included former ministers Abdul Rehman Veeri and Naeem Akhtar, senior leaders Sartaj Madni and Peerzada Mansoor Ahmad, former legislators Khurshid Alam and Ajaz Ahmad Mir, and youth president Waheed-ur-Rehman Para.
The PDP leaders later released several videos purportedly showing policemen not allowing them to leave. In one of the videos, policemen could be heard saying that they “don’t have the permission” to let the leaders move out.
“We want answers from the government. Why are we being detained, under which law and for what crime? When the other political parties are allowed to meet, why are we being stopped? This is not democracy,” Madni said.
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