In the Indian-administered Kashmir, when a large number of politicians are detained and there is a complete lockdown situation in the state, local elections are being prepared.
This will be the first election activity in the state since the Bharatiya Janata Party government has abolished Kashmir’s special status in the Indian constitution.
In the first phase, panchayat council elections are being prepared on October 24 in 310 blocks in rural areas. The counting of votes will take place on election day.
Almost all the prominent politicians in the state have been in government custody for over two months and have been banned all over the state on the internet, mobile telephone and other means of communication.
Opposition leaders have termed these elections as fake and a joke with democracy. Opposition leaders have warned that political space in the state will cause Kashmiris to lose confidence in India.
‘All our politicians are under house arrest’
The politicians who are detained in the house include former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and beloved Mufti, as well as pro-Indian politician Sajjad Lone, Shah Faisal and several other former MPs.
The administration has eliminated politicians’ detention in the Jammu region. The abolition of Kashmir’s special constitutional status in Jammu has been generally welcomed in India, but conditions in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir where resistance movement has been going on for decades are still tense and there have been protests against government measures. Indian-administered Kashmir has a complete shutdown of communications and internet and mobile phone connections have been suspended since August.
Political parties say they are having difficulty contacting their workers. Many political activists are missing from home and offices of political parties are closed.
Ravinder Sharma of the Congress party says: ‘How will we choose our candidates when we cannot even contact them? The Congress party has announced the boycott of these elections. Ravindra Sharma says he was also barred from holding a press conference.
Harsh Dev Singh of the Kashmir National Panthers Party, who has been released just days after the 58-day deliberations, says that it is important to give equal opportunity to political parties and leaders to make the elections credible. They say ‘these are just pretend elections. These are just to show that elections are happening in the valley too. ‘
“Everything is closed in the state, it is inappropriate to talk about politics,” said Deena Rana of the National Conference. ‘How can political activities be done in such a situation? When the political workers cannot meet the people, they do not understand their wishes, how can this system operate? ‘
Political activist Shahla Rashid, who was recently affiliated with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, says she is quitting politics. She says: ‘What is happening here is not democracy, it is killing democracy. This is an attempt to get your puppets in. ‘
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party is confident that it will field its candidates and will support independent candidates in many places.
BJP’s Ravindra Raina says there is no political space in Kashmir and elections will give new people an opportunity in Kashmir politics, which was previously dominated by the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference.
Senior Kashmiri politician Farooq Abdullah has been detained under a controversial Public Safety Act which is being debated in India. Under this law, anyone can be detained for up to two years without giving any reason.
Many Kashmiris say that his attitude with Farooq Abdullah has shocked him. A delegation from the National Conference recently met Farooq Abdullah and his son, Omar Abdullah, to look after him.
Devendra Rana, who was part of a delegation meeting with both Kashmiri leaders, says he is very sad with the current situation.
The BJP does not agree that the political process in Kashmir has made any difference due to the scrutiny of political leaders.
Devender Raina contends that no case has been registered against any political leader besides Farooq Abdullah.
According to the BJP, they have been kept under wraps to prevent them from spreading hatred so as not to create a public peace situation and to avoid the loss of innocent people.
Political analyst Nur Ahmad Baba has warned that these elections could give rise to prostitutes in Kashmir. “This whole process is repressive which can lead to hatred, anger and rebellion among the people.”