NEW DELHI – Six months after her entry into mainstream politics, former JNU student leader Shehla Rashid on Wednesday announced her decision to quit electoral politics in Kashmir saying she can’t be a party to legitimising the “suppression” of people.
Shehla, who became a prominent face of student activism following a controversy over a 2016 event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University during which alleged anti-national slogans were raised, had earlier this year joined the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement floated by former IAS officer Shah Faesal.
In a statement, the former JNUSU vice-president said she was compelled to dissociate “with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir” due to the central government’s move to hold Block Development Council elections later this month in Jammu and Kashmir, where communication restrictions are in place.
The restrictions were imposed on August 5 after the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.
“I cannot be party to the exercise of legitimizing the brutal suppression of my people. I would, therefore, like to make clear my dissociation with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir”, she said.
Shehla termed the Block Development Council polls as a “sham electoral exercise”.
“In view of mounting international pressure on the Indian government to end the siege in Kashmir, the centre now wants to showcase a sham electoral exercise in order to convince the world that it is still a democracy. The central government’s preferred Kashmir policy since 1953 has been subterfuge and deceit. From outright coup in 1953 to rigged elections in 1987 to stage-managed rhetoric in 2019, the centre has only sophisticated the process of selecting its puppets over time. The centre is currently looking for new ‘Bakshis’ to legitimise its recent actions with regard to the state of J&K” Shehla said, and claimed that political leaders are being forced to contest elections only on the issue of restoration of statehood, and asked to keep quiet about Article 370 and bifurcation of the state!
Shehla said she had joined politics as she believed it was “possible to deliver both justice as well as good governance, and also work for the resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
“It is clear that participation in any political activity in Kashmir requires a compromise, she claimed.
“While the dilution of the pre-1953 status, the imposition of AFSPA, the unfortunate exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, etc. cannot be blamed upon our generation, as we were not even born back then, the onus of accepting or rejecting the actions of today is on our generation alone. If we do not voice our opposition to these actions, and go on about business as usual, these injustices will be on us. I would, therefore, like to make clear my dissociation with the electoral mainstream in Kashmir. I stand in solidarity with my people who are being made to suffer for even the most basic of amenities and being deprived of the most basic of rights. I cannot be party to the exercise of legitimizing the brutal suppression of my people”, the statement read.
Shehla said the government keeps inviting the youth to join the mainstream but alleged its actions have only served to push people out of the mainstream.
The former JNU Students Union leader’s announcement of quitting mainstream politics came on the day the Congress party said it would not contest the Block Development Council polls.
“I will continue to be an activist and raise my voice against injustice on all fronts that do not require a compromise and I’ll continue to put my energies behind the Supreme Court petition seeking the restoration of special status of the state, and the reversal of bifurcation of the state,” she said in the statement.