Srinagar: A meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one of the main political parties in Kashmir, couldn’t take place Thursday as police allegedly prevented senior leaders from leaving their residence.
The meeting, which was supposed to be held at the party headquarters in Srinagar, would have been the PDP’s first since last August, when the restrictions and detentions accompanying the Modi government’s Article 370 move brought political activity to a complete halt in Kashmir.
The meeting was called by PDP general secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura. It was to be attended by senior PDP members barring party president and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who remains detained under the controversial Public Safety Act. Senior PDP leaders told ThePrint that Lone had called the meeting to chart out a road map for the party.
Party leaders alleged that when they were setting off for the meeting Thursday morning, police personnel posted at their homes for security purposes prevented them from leaving, citing “directions from higher-ups”.
PDP members also took to social media to share videos that purportedly showed some leaders, including former minister Naeem Akhtar, not being allowed to leave their residences.
My father Muhammad Khurshid Alam wasn’t allowed to attend the scheduled meeting convened by Hon’ General Secretary @jkpdp.
In all the submissions to HC and SC including the Indian Parliament GOI blatantly lies about the illegal detention of @jkpdp leaders. pic.twitter.com/BL72SMTdMD
— Sajad Khursheed Alam (@sajadalam) September 3, 2020
Despite being free on paper and in govt submissions in HC and SC, PDP Leadership continues to be under illegal detention, without any official orders. Video from today – I wasn't allowed to attend the PDP meeting nor were any of my colleagues. pic.twitter.com/zpguiKYEIg
— Naeem Akhtar (@shangpal) September 3, 2020
@jkpdp General Secretary G.N Lone Hanjura sb (@LoneHanjura) speaks on the events that unfolded today, how the administration has been lying about the detentions of leaders, and the way the entire PDP leadership has been illegal detained without any formal orders.
— J&K PDP Youth (@YouthJKPDP) September 3, 2020
Asked about the allegations, J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh told ThePrint that the civil administration would be better placed to offer a “comment on why the PDP leaders were barred from attending the meet”.
ThePrint tried to call several senior officers in the J&K administration, including government spokesperson Rohit Kansal, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Pandurang Kondbarao Pole and Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Chaudhary, but they went unanswered until the time of publishing this report.
Since the seniors couldn’t make it, a meeting of junior PDP members was held at the party office Thursday.
‘No law & order in Kashmir’
Speaking to ThePrint, Akhtar said the barring of party leaders from participating in the meeting was representative of the “ground situation in Kashmir where freedoms are restricted”.
“The basic problem is that the J&K government has been offering lies to the Supreme Court and the high court that political leaders in Kashmir are free. There is no law and order here,” Akhtar said.
The episode involving the PDP meeting follows another instance where alleged restrictions on local leaders have come to light. In July, the J&K administration found itself in a major controversy when it claimed in the Supreme Court that Congress leader Saifuddin Soz wasn’t in detention. The administration said this in response to a petition filed by Soz’s family challenging his detention.
A video report by NDTV had subsequently showed Soz in alleged detention inside his house, and the leader had accused the J&K administration of lying.
Akhtar said when he asked police personnel why he wasn’t being allowed out, they “said they were directed… by higher-ups”.
“This is a worry for the rest of the country. The Kashmir model is being replicated elsewhere, too, for example the crackdown and the encounters in Uttar Pradesh. How are we expected to meet the people of Kashmir, hold party meetings or meet the press like this?” Akhtar said, alleging that the administration is allowing other political parties to meet and carry out activities, including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the recently-formed Apni Party.
The National Conference (NC) has also been allowed to hold meetings over the past few weeks.
PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari told ThePrint that Thursday’s meeting was the “first of its kind after 5 August last year”.
“We have had a few gatherings of local leaders but the party had not arranged for a meeting at such a scale where senior brass of PDP was supposed to meet for the first time since August last year. It is unfortunate how things have unfolded today,” Bukhari said.