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J&K Leader's Ability to Convince People to Vote During Boycotts Cited as Reason for PSA Charge

'Your capacity can be gauged from this fact that you were able to convince your electorates to come out and vote...during the peak of the militancy and poll boycotts.'

Srinagar: The senior National Conference leader Ali Mohammed Sagar’s capacity to convince people to vote in elections even during a poll boycott call by separatists in Kashmir has been listed by J&K authorities, among other reasons, as a ground for the senior politician’s detention under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).

“Your capacity can be gauged from this fact that you were able to convince your electorates to come out and vote in huge numbers even during the peak of the militancy and poll boycotts,” reads the PSA dossier against Sagar, accessed by the Wire.

The senior politician was detained under the PSA on February 6, the day his six-month preventive detention ended. “You are a known political figure in Srinagar and enjoy popularity in Khanyar constituency which is part of the downtown area of the city. You have a good liaison with respectable people and youth of the area,” mentions the seven-page dossier.

It talks about the meeting Sagar chaired at his residence in Srinagar in July, days before the Centre scrapped J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. “In the meeting, you stated that if Article 370 is abrogated, we will unite and raise voice against Union of India,” the dossier reads.

Also read: How the Public Safety Act Continues to Haunt Kashmir

“You reportedly impressed upon your party workers who attended the meeting that youth of Khanyar constituency [which was won by Sagar in2014 elections] be informed to be ready for mass agitation in case Article 370 was revoked.”

The dossier described Sagar as “vocal voice” against the move against Articles 370 and 35A and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K. “You have led many protests in this regard and created problems in public order besides instigating general youth, party workers and youth belonging to your constituency,” reads the dossier.

It also refers to a party rally Sagar took out from National Conference headquarters in Lal Chowk, along with 250 workers, in view of the hearing on Article 35A in the Supreme Court. The dossier mentions Sagar’s criticism against the government of India for its policies in the state leading up to the August 5 reading down, during a rally at Khansahab in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

“You have posted many provoking/instigating statements and ideas on social networking sites so as to instigate people against the decisions of Union of India,” reads the dossier.

“Your activities are highly prejudicial to the maintenance of public order and have a significant influence upon the ideology of common people…it could be safely said that by way of your influence in Khanyar and other constituencies like Beerwah and Sonwar, you can get a large number of people to protests against decisions taken by the government of India.”

Also read: By Detaining Farooq, the Centre Signals its Contempt for Kashmiri Representation

The dossier also talks about the National Conference’s criticism of communal forces in the country.

“He also said that the NC will fight tooth and nail against it [the dropping of J&K’s special status],” reads the dossier.

Who is Sagar?

One of the senior leaders of the National Conference, Sagar was a close confidante of party president Farooq Abdullah. A law graduate from University of Kashmir, Sagar was elevated to the powerful position of general secretary in 2014, replacing Farooq’s cousin Sheikh Nazir who held the position since 1996.

Hailing from downtown’s Khanyar constituency, Sagar is one of the influential politicians in Srinagar and has consecutively won the last four Assembly elections from the segment since 1996.

Ali Mohammed Sagar. Photo: Twitter/@ync_kashmir

In the 2014 elections he defeated Peoples Democratic Party’s Khursheed Alam. He has been cabinet minister in the National Conference-led governments in the past and held key ministries including law and parliamentary affairs, rural development, home and public works.

“The subject gained confidence and executed all the assignments of the party (over the years) with dedication, devotion and hard work,” reads the dossier.

Sagar began his political career as secretary of a student’s group in the early 1970s and has remained associated with the National Conference since 1977.

“The subject is a known political figure in the Srinagar city,” mentions the dossier.

His son, Salam Sagar is the president of the youth wing of the National Conference. A former mayor of Srinagar city, the junior Sagar was also detained on August 5 last year. He, was, however, released on January 16, after more than five months.

More than three dozen politicians were detained in August including three former J&K chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

While Abdullah was booked under the PSA in September last year and, Omar and Mehbooba were slapped with the PSA, described by Amnesty International as “lawless law”, in February.

The PDP’s Sartaj Madni who is the former Speaker of the erstwhile J&K assembly has also been detained under the controversial PSA under which a person can be jailed without trial for up to two years.