Srinagar: Senior leaders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were not allowed to leave their residences in Kashmir on Thursday to attend the party’s first meeting since the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 last year.
Hours before the meeting, PDP leaders said that the police verbally communicated to tell them that they cannot attend the meeting. “All these days we were being told that we are free, but when I tried to leave my residence for the meeting, I was stopped by the police,” said PDP spokesperson Waheed Ur Rehman Parra.
A year of unfreedom & many claims later we were told we are free now. But when we try to attend the first party meet post Aug 5 they told us we are under detention.
Question now is how choking our space in the name of law & order is contributing to the so called ‘peace pic.twitter.com/azJBqgAiwl
— Waheed Ur Rehman (@parawahid) September 3, 2020
While the party president Mehbooba Mufti continues to be under arrest at her residence, which has been dubbed a “sub-jail”, the PDP general secretary G.N. Lone had called the meeting to chalk out a “future strategy” and discuss the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Senior party leader, A.R. Veeri said they had already written to divisional commissioner Kashmir, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range and district commissioner Srinagar, seeking permission for the meeting. “But there was no response from their side,” said Veeri.
He said the party had ensured that the meeting would adhere to the protocol in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. “Since only the senior leaders are participating, it would not be a huge gathering and we would ensure the measures with regard to COVID-19 pandemic,” the PDP had written in the letter.
After being prohibited from attending the meeting, several PDP leaders released videos showing policemen, deputed at their residences, stopping them from leaving their homes.
In one such video, a policeman can be heard telling a senior PDP leader Naem Akhter that he had directions from senior authorities to not allow him to step outside his residence. “Connect me to your higher authority. I’m not blaming you, but show me the order which bars me from moving out,” Akhtar told the policeman, before coming out of his vehicle and attempting to leave his residence on foot.
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
“You can’t leave the residence on foot as well,” the policeman said, stopping the PDP leader.
“Despite being free on paper and in government submission in HC (high court) and SC (Supreme Court), PDP leadership continues to be under illegal detention, without any official orders,” Akhtar said in a tweet. “I wasn’t allowed to attend the PDP meeting nor were any of my colleagues.”
Lone, who was also stopped at the entrance of his residence, said, “they (police) don’t have any detention order, but at the same time they have not allowed any of the PDP leaders to leave the residence for the meeting.”
Govt should come clean on whether someone is detained or not. This heralds the new struggle. Struggle to get the Govt agree that a person is detained. https://t.co/jxJ76QlEHC
— Sajad Lone (@sajadlone) September 3, 2020
He said the government of India was telling the entire world that political leaders were free in Jammu and Kashmir. “The reality is that we are being deprived even of our basic rights to move out of our residences for the past one year,” said Lone.
A senior official in the administration said the party had been “communicated” to “adhere to COVID-19 procedures” before deciding to hold any meeting.
Para said the meeting was also called to check the veracity of the claims of administration and police that the PDP leaders were free. “We are now left with no choice but to knock the doors of the court to seek freedom from house detention,” said Para.
The party had called the meeting days after National Conference President Farooq Abdullah was allowed to hold meetings at his party residence after he and the party vice president, Omar Abdullah, had moved the high court, seeking the release of party leaders from house detention.
Abdullah had later also held a meeting with senior leaders of the PDP, Congress, Peoples Conference, CPI-M, and Awami National Conference last month wherein they decided to strive for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The BJP is the only party which has held frequent meetings and continued political activities since August 5 last year, despite the imposition of restrictions in Kashmir. Last month the J&K Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari also held its maiden meeting in the summer capital Srinagar.
“The mental toll this detention has induced in our families is not only cruel but also unconstitutional and vindictive. While other political parties are allowed to continue political activities, severe restrictions are placed on us,” said Para.
On its Twitter handle, the PDP sought to know why its leaders were prevented from attending the meeting. “On whose orders have all senior party leaders been detained while the administration is on record in Hon’ble High Court claiming no one is under house arrest,” read a tweet by the PDP’s Twitter handle.