Farooq Abdullah: Our candidates locked up
Veteran leader Farooq Abdullah on Saturday shot off a protest letter to the Jammu and Kashmir chief election commissioner alleging that the government was locking up People’s Alliance candidates for the district development council elections on the ruse of their security while showing “blatant” bias towards others.
Although People’s Alliance chairman Farooq’s letter to chief election commissioner K.K. Sharma did not name any party, other key leaders of the seven-party axis such as Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have accused the administration of going out of its way to help the BJP.
Valley politicians have alleged that several non-BJP candidates have been kept confined to “secure locations” by the administration of lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha on the pretext of ensuring their security and with the real aim of preventing them from campaigning.
The letter by Farooq, who heads the seven-party Jammu and Kashmir alliance fighting for the restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status, also alleged that the government was desecrating the sacrifices of thousands of political workers who had “laid down their lives for the sake of democracy”.
“No government has the right to alter the institutional foundations of democracy in J and K, nourished by the sacrifices of thousands of political workers,” the letter from Farooq, also the National Conference president and a former chief minister, said.
The maiden DDC elections will begin from November 24. The alliance, which had earlier boycotted local body elections to protest the abrogation of key features of Article 370, has chosen to contest this time to prove that its fight for the reinstatement of special status enjoys public support.
“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC elections. A strange and unique feature has come to the fore. Candidates put up by the PAGD (People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration) are immediately whisked away to ‘secure locations’ in the name of security and confined to those ‘secure locations’,” Farooq’s letter said.
“They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes.”
Farooq said they had fought and won elections in the past and were aware about the security challenges in Jammu and Kashmir.
“These challenges are not new but have been painfully persisting for the last three decades. But the government had structures in place which ensured security for all contestants irrespective of the ideology they espoused or the parties they represented,” he said.
“The current state of affairs in the realm of security is blatantly oriented towards providing security to a select few and confining others. This comes across more as an attempt to interfere in the democratic process than any real concern for the wellbeing of the contestants. Security cannot and should not be used as a tool or an excuse to interfere in democratic processes,” the letter added.
Former chief ministers Omar and Mehbooba have been more forthcoming.
“The J&K administration is going out of its way to help the BJP & its recently created king’s party by locking up candidates opposed to the BJP, using security as an excuse. If the security situation isn’t conducive to campaigning what was the need to announce elections?” Omar, a National Conference leader, had tweeted earlier this week.
Mehbooba, the PDP chief, had tweeted: “Non-BJP candidates for DDC polls aren’t allowed to campaign freely & are being locked up on the pretence of security. But BJP & its proxies are given full bandobast to move around….”
On Saturday, Mehbooba alleged that one of her candidates was facing difficulty filing his nomination. “GOI sabotaging participation of non-BJP parties in DDC polls. PDP’s Bashir Ahmed despite having adequate security has been detained at Pahalgam on the pretext of security. Today is the last day for filing nominations & have spoken to DC Anantnag for his release,” she tweeted.
In his letter, Farooq detailed how the “evolution of democracy” in Jammu and Kashmir was distinct “compared to any other part of the country”.
“The journey is a bloodied journey, soaked in the blood of thousands of political workers who have laid down their lives for the sake of democracy,” the veteran leader said.
“It is a desecration of those sacrifices when the very conflict that consumed their lives is used as an alibi to customise democracy. Democracy is still in a state of fragility in J and K. Governments come and go,” he added.
The letter said “providing security to a select few and literally interning the rest is a gross interference in democracy”.
Several parties and candidates have in recent days alleged harassment by government agencies.
The CPM secretary for Jammu and Kashmir, M.Y. Tarigami, this week wrote to Sinha, alleging that candidates were being “kept away from their constituencies” and “bundled into cluster accommodations”. The CPM is part of the Gupkar alliance.
In his reply on Friday to Tarigami’s letter, Sinha said the “issue is already in my notice and necessary instructions stand conveyed to the concerned”.