The PAGD continued on Saturday with its tirade against the administration of its candidates being allegedly prevented from campaigning and security used as a “pretext to impede and customize democracy” in Jammu and Kashmir, a week before the first democratic exercise post the abrogation of its special status.
People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration president Farooq Abdullah sent a two-page letter to Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner K K Sharma, saying providing security to a select few and “literally interning” the rest was a “gross interference” in a democracy.
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“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC (district development council) elections. A strange and a unique feature has come to the fore,” the National Conference leader said in the letter.
“Candidates put up by the PAGD are immediately whisked away to ‘secure locations’ in the name of security and confined to those ‘secure locations’,” he said. “They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes.” The former chief minister said the current state of affairs in the realm of security was “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 Srinagar MP said.
The PAGD president’s letter comes amid allegations by the Valley’s major political parties, including the NC and the Peoples Democratic Party, of not having a level-playing field for the polls. The parties have accused the administration of locking up their candidates in accommodations at several places and not allowing them to campaign.
The DDC polls will be held in eight phases beginning November 28 and ends on December 24. The PAGD is an alliance of several political parties seeking the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status abrogated by the Centre in August last year.
Abdullah said the parties part of the PAGD had been in power in the past and were aware of the challenges posed in the realm of security in a place beset by violence.
Asserting that the evolution of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir was distinctive compared to any other part of the country, Abdullah said this evolution was a “bloodied journey”, soaked in the blood of thousands of political workers who have laid down their lives for the sake of democracy.
He acknowledged that security was a challenge, which should be countered by the government in a manner that was fair and transparent, but “providing security to a select few and literally interning the rest is a gross interference in democracy”.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who is also the PAGD vice president, accused the Centre of “sabotaging” the participation of political parties other than the BJP in the DDC polls by not allowing them to campaign freely.
“GOI sabotaging participation of non BJP parties in DDC polls. PDPs Bashir Ahmed despite having adequate security has been detained at Pahalgam on the pretext of security. Today is the last day for filing nominations and have spoken to DC Anantnag for his release,” Mufti tweeted, tagging Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
Police have said the candidates were being provided collective security and put up in secure areas as providing protection to every candidate was difficult.
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Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said the candidates were provided a double escort, and the security forces guard an area where they want to visit and campaign after leaving their secure accommodations.
On Friday, PAGD convenor and CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami had released a letter from Sinha, who assured a smooth campaign for the local body elections and said the polls would go a long way in strengthening panchayati raj institutions in the Union territory.
The Lt governor said he had taken note of the concerns and issued “necessary instructions”.
Tarigami, a former MLA from the militancy-hit Kulgam district of south Kashmir, had informed the Sinha that after filing their nomination papers, the candidates were not allowed to campaign due to “perceived threat to their lives” and had been bundled in “cluster accommodation”.
“Confining candidates against their wishes has severely restricted their movement and ability to campaign. Even in some cases, they are not allowed to attend party meetings,” the CPI(M) leader said.