October 2019 News

'Detentions Prevented Bloodbath': Kashmir Leaders May Not Be Freed Soon

4 October 2019

Srinagar: The government may have released Jammu-based leaders detained in August ahead of local polls in the region, but it is unlikely that their counterparts in Kashmir will receive similar relief anytime soon. The Satya Pal Malik administration believes that it was because of preventive action taken against politicians such as National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti that the government was able to prevent a 'bloodbath' following its decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. 'The situation in the region is normal only because these leaders have been detained. The results of these detentions are clear. If you look at instances in the past, Kashmir has always witnessed a bloodbath after any such move. It didn't happen this time because these leaders were kept out,' Farookh Khan, advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir governor, told NDTV. 'We haven't arrived at any decision on releasing Kashmiri political leaders ahead of the Block Development Council elections in the region. The authorities concerned will undertake a case-by-case assessment in this regard,' he added. Dozens of political leaders, including three former Chief Ministers, have been in detention for nearly two months now. However, Mr Khan claimed that their unavailability will not undermine the local body polls scheduled for October 24. 'BDC members are elected by panchayat members, not detained leaders. The elections will not be affected because some of them aren't present,' he said. Many prominent regional parties - including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party - had boycotted the panchayat elections held last November to protest against the government's attempts to 'undermine' Jammu and Kashmir's special status. Consequently, as many as 12,000 panchayat seats remained vacant. Mr Khan rejected suggestions that it was irregular to hold BDC elections despite 61% of the panchayat seats still lying vacant. 'The benefits of rural development schemes for the people should not be denied just because a certain number of panchayat seats are vacant,' he said. The National Conference had slammed the administration's decision to hold BDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming that conducting an electoral exercise at a time when the region's entire political leadership was under detention amounted to being 'the biggest mockery of democracy'. The state official also rejected allegations that security restrictions in the region have deprived its population of access to educational institutions. 'All schools are open and teachers have reported back to work. Parents should send their children to school if they don't want to put their future in jeopardy,' he said. Mr Khan said that as the situation in Kashmir has returned to normal, there was no reason for children to keep away from school. 'In some areas, schools are reporting around 40 per cent attendance,' he added.