Monday, 30th October 2017

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Shehla Rashid quits Valley mainstream politics

Council polls a sham, says former JNU student leader

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar
  • Published 10.10.19, 6:20 AM
  • Updated 10.10.19, 6:20 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Shehla Rashid Shora, a founding member of the Jammu and Kashmir Political Movement floated by IAS topper turned politician Shah Faesal, announced her “dissociation with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir” over social media. (PTI)

The Centre’s recent decisions on Jammu and Kashmir have claimed their first political casualty in the Valley with activist and politician Shehla Rashid Shora quitting mainstream politics on Wednesday.

The former JNU student leader, a founding member of the Jammu and Kashmir Political Movement floated by IAS topper turned politician Shah Faesal, announced her “dissociation with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir” over social media.

The immediate trigger was the government’s decision to hold Block Development Council elections in the state despite the mainstream political leadership, including Faesal, being in jail.

“Participation in the electoral process in a situation where even the election rhetoric is to be dictated by the Centre will only amount to legitimising the actions of the Indian govt in #Kashmir,” Shehla tweeted.

She said she would continue to be an activist and protest against injustice on all fronts that “do not require a compromise”.

“I’ll continue to put my energies behind the Supreme Court petition seeking the restoration of special status of the state, and the reversal of (its) bifurcation,” she said.

Shehla, who had been camping in Delhi and has been booked on sedition charges for accusing the army of human rights violations in Kashmir, explained her position to The Telegraph before leaving for Srinagar on Wednesday.

“My decision is not merely because elections are in sight. I believe it is necessary to clarify one’s stand that if people cannot voice their opinion, then how can we claim that democracy is being practised?” she said.

“The elections are another fixed match in a series by the government in Kashmir. When I joined politics, people would ask me: ‘How do you know that what has happened here for seven decades won’t happen again?’ I would tell them that in the age of social media, the Centre cannot mock democracy. But the government has done it again. We were proved wrong.”

Shehla had earlier in the day written on Facebook that the elections had been announced to showcase “normalcy” even as millions were under a “lockdown” and “the government continues to abduct children”.

She said she had joined a political formation without giving up her stance on the “right to self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir on both sides of the border”.

“We believed that it was possible to deliver both justice as well as good governance, and also work for the resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. All this would have been possible if the government respected the rule of law,” she wrote.

“However, the Centre’s recent actions have shown that, when it comes to J&K, it doesn’t even respect its own laws, forget international law. The Centre also gets away with it because the institutions play along.”

Shehla said the Centre wants “to showcase a sham electoral exercise in order to convince the world that it is still a democracy”.

“The Centre is currently looking for new ‘Bakshis’ to legitimise its recent actions…. Political leaders are being forced to contest elections only on the issue of restoration of statehood, and asked to keep quiet about Article 370 and bifurcation of the state! Anyone who doesn’t comply will face incarceration,” she wrote.

Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi had taken over as the state’s prime minister in 1953 after Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was removed and jailed.

“Anyone challenging their detention will be slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act. It is clear that participation in any political activity in Kashmir requires a compromise,” Shehla wrote.

She added that she stood in “solidarity with my people who are being made to suffer for even the most basic of amenities and being deprived of the most basic of rights”.

“I cannot be party to the exercise of legitimising the brutal suppression of my people,” she said.

In Delhi, she told this newspaper: “It is premature to think about what steps my party will take at a time when Shah Faesal and other political leaders are in captivity. It is not possible to reach many members of our party even now.

“The Centre does not want people’s voices from the ground. They want to install a Delhi durbar yet again. People are being released on bonds that they won’t oppose the removal of (certain provisions of) Article 370, and they will only be allowed to participate in polls on the limited contest on the question of statehood. They want to force us to accept this compromise of contesting elections on conditions laid down by the Centre.

“I don’t want to give legitimacy to this sham exercise. It is democracy that is at stake.”

Dozens of political leaders in the state were detained ahead of August 5, when the Centre removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, announced its bifurcation and imposed a lockdown in the state.

Additional reporting by Pheroze L. Vincent from New Delhi