NC delegation's visit

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/8/2019 5:07:57 PM

Permitting the meeting of NC team with Farooq, Omar is refreshing but does not translate into political activity, much less normalcy

The permission granted to National Conference delegation from Jammu and to two MPs of the party to meet their detained party leaders Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah on Sunday is a welcome step though it is too small a move to deem it as a step towards restoration of normalcy in the Valley after two months of lockdown. It is a refreshing departure from the past that for the first time a visit to the Valley by any politician has been allowed without seeking court intervention. A similar delegation of PDP leaders also was likely to meet the jailed party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday. The contention that these meetings were part of a goodwill exercise skirts the basic issue of why the entire brass of mainstream political leadership was incarcerated illegally and undemocratically for the last two months. Needless to point out that the leaders comprising delegation of National Conference leaders were freed from house arrest just three days ago. While the government is tightlipped, some mid-level BJP leaders have been justifying the arrests on grounds of checking terrorism. Such absurd remarks blur the lines between the politicians of Jammu and Kashmir, who have kept aloft the Indian flag, and gun wielding rebel militia. The arrests are unjustified as they do not meet any standards of legality. To deem these meetings as some major achievement and a major shift in Kashmir policy also overlooks the vital question of the release of these leaders. The government has so far been unable to lend some clarity on this issue. Different ministers and functionaries in the government have added to the confusion by giving multiple statements. While union minister Dr Jitendra Singh averred that the politicians would be jailed for the next 18 months, BJP spokesperson has maintained that they would be soon released and Advisor to Governor, Farooq Khan, has hinted at releasing them one by one, a count that could take over a year to release all of them. Hundreds of politicians, besides many other lawyers, academics and businessmen have been jailed and many have been sent to prisons outside the state. According to rough estimates over 4500 people from Jammu and Kashmir, majority of them from the Valley, have been detained under public safety act. At least some of them are reported to include minors, though officially the government has responded with abject denial.
Added to this massive security has been mobilized in the already densely militarized state. The people of the Kashmir valley and parts of Jammu have been under a communications lockdown since over two months. Mobile phones are blocked and internet snapped, impacting all sectors of life including business, education and medical health-care. While movement on the restrictions have now eased, public civil disobedience and reported threats by militants have further put life into disarray. Continuation of such abnormal conditions provides a fertile ground for militancy to flourish. These are worryingly abnormal conditions and their continuation can further jeopardize law and order situation in the Valley and upset its political and economic stability. In the midst of this severe crisis, the government move to announce block development council elections, a process in which the BJP has already invested itself while the leadership of all other political parties is still imprisoned and communications remain blocked in the Valley, making it an unlevel playing field. Whatever these moves are inspired by, they cannot help restore either normalcy or even political activity. The government needs to get its ear to the ground, assess the ground realities in all fairness and plan for the future accordingly.



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