Kashmiri Politicians In Dilemma After Release From Detention

CRPF men stand guard at a closed market during lockdown in Srinagar after the abrogation of Article 370. KO File Photo: Abid Bhat

SRINAGAR – Even after the release of more detained mainstream politicians in Srinagar, hopes of the regional political parties restarting political activities still remains a far cry in Kashmir.

Sajjad Lone of the Peoples Conference (PC) and Waheed Para of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were released on Wednesday and placed under house arrest in Srinagar.

Three former chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti among other senior politicians who were placed under detention on August 5 last year when Article 370 was abrogated.

Besides the three former chief ministers, Abdur Rahim Rather, Ali Muhammad Sagar, Naeem Akhtar, Mubarak Gul and former IAS officer Shah Faesal are among those still under detention inside the MLA hostel in Srinagar which has been declared as a sub-jail.

Kashmiri politicians who have been released after their detention on August 5 last year have denied that they had given any undertaking to the authorities as a pre-condition to their release.

“I have given no undertaking and the authorities have revoked my detention without any pre-condition”, said a senior mainstream politician who was released recently , but continues to remain under house arrest in Srinagar.

Authorities are considering the release of all other detained Kashmiri politicians in the coming days although there is no clarity on whether or not the three former chief ministers would also be released sometime soon.

Reports that the authorities are considering action for alleged criminal involvement against some of the detained leaders are also hot in the power corridors of the newly-created Union Territory.

“Everyone of us has to pay for his or her sins. That is the law of nature and there is no escaping from this fundamental reality”, said a top security officer who did not want to be named.

What comes as a serious blow to the future of these mainstream politicians is that the common man hardly appears to be bothered about their release.

“I was a poor rickshaw driver when these leaders flew in aeroplanes and helicopters. I remain a rickshaw driver when they are under detention. Their release is of no consequence to my daily struggle for survival,” said Javaid Rather, a local rickshaw driver.

Having raised hopes of autonomy, self-rule and other so-called vision documents among their voters, all mainstream politicians of Kashmir will have to eat more than their share of humble pie when they face voters in the next elections.

“The best they can now demand is statehood. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already said during his speech in the Parliament when Article 370 was abrogated that statehood would be restored to J&K when the situation returns to normal.

“What is there to bargain for that the mainstream politicians can promise the people now?” said Suhail Mir, a local advocate.

Ironically, talking of development, healthcare, education, tourism and trade have never remained among top electoral promises of the mainstream parties in Kashmir.

To match the ‘Azadi’ slogan of the separatists, local politicians have always spoken of J&K’s special status and establishing of Kashmir as a free trade zone between India and Pakistan.

It is literally impossible for the regional political parties to convince people that they would get Article 370 back once voted to power.

Statehood is not something that finds great favour with the local people especially if the demand comes from those politicians who have promised the sky to Kashmiris in the past.

In a nutshell, the difference between politicians of national and regional mainstream parties has shrunk to such an extent that there is very little for Kashmiri politicians to catch the imagination of voters in future.

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