New Delhi: A group of citizens have written to President Ram Nath Kovind asking him to postpone the block development council (BDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir – scheduled for Thursday – in view of the “unprecedented socio-economic situation in the state” after the dilution of Article 370.
Most political parties in the state, apart from the BJP, have announced that they will boycott the elections. “Clearly, the grounds for free and fair elections do not exist in the state,” the 260 signatories say in the letter. Among those who have signed the letter are Akeel Bilgrami, Apoorvanand, Aruna Roy, Ayesha Kidwai, Badri Raina, Bezwada Wilson, Harsh Mander, Jayati Ghosh, Jean Dreze, Vice Air Marshal (Retired) Kapil Kak, Medha Patkar; 17, Nandini Sundar, Nikhil Dey, P. Sainath, Prashant Bhushan, Shabnam Hashmi, Shanta Sinha, Syeda Hameed and Swami Agnivesh.
In the letter, the citizens expressed “grave concern about both the intent and timing of this decision”, saying it “undermines both democracy, and the electoral process”. The Kashmir valley has been under lockdown, with restrictions on movement and communication, since August 5, when the Centre decided to dilute Article 370 and revoke the state’s special status. It will be bifurcated in two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh – on October 31.
“Various citizen led groups have submitted alarming reports of the ground situation in J&K. On one hand, most means of communication in J&K have been suspended for almost two months. Stringent curfews have been imposed in a number of regions of the state. Exacerbating the situation, there have been reports of clashes between the public and the armed forces which have resulted in injuries and deaths,” they say.
They say, “For democracy to be meaningful, it is imperative that elections are conducted in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation, so that citizens can vote without fear, for candidates of their choice.” Such conditions do not exist currently because of “the unprecedented socio-political situation” in the state, they say.
“When the entire leaderships of bonafide political parties are under detention and there are restrictions on even personal communication among the leaders and workers of political parties, it is obvious that the grounds for free and fair elections simply do not exist,” they added.
The letter has been attached below.