PSA dossier on Omar Abdullah vindicates separatists’ stand in Kashmir

One of the grounds for booking him under the draconian law is encouraging the people to defy the boycott calls given by militants and separatists

Photo Courtesy: social media 
Photo Courtesy: social media

Gulzar Bhat

Narendra Modi-led BJP government has vindicated the separatists’ stand vis-a-vis Kashmir by delegitimising the elections held in the past across the conflict torn region.

The charges listed out in the PSA dossier of Omar Abdullah seems rather incongruous with what the Government of India has been tom-tomming about for decades.

One of the key charges included in Abdullah's dossier is his ability to make voters throng polling booths and cast their votes despite boycott calls by separatists and militants.

"For years India has been legitimising Jammu and Kashmir" accession with India through the electoral process and now it itself is delegitimising the same process," says a prominent political observer of the Valley who declined to be quoted in this report.

He added that somewhere BJP has vindicated the stand of separatist groups as they never ever recognised such elections.

In 1989, armed rebellion broke out in Kashmir and hundreds of young men signed up for various militant outfits. Amid burgeoning violence and bedlam, the legislatively assembly was suspended in January 1990 and the state was brought under President's rule that lasted for over six years.

"The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was on the edge and it was National Conference and its leaders who initiated a democratic process and took the state out of the political crisis in 1996," said Shekih Bashir Ahmad, provincial secretary of National Conference.

Ahmad asked that how a person could be booked for encouraging the people to defy the boycott calls given by militants.

The 1996 elections were conducted under the shadow of gun. While militants killed many political leaders and plastered walls in the small towns and villages with posters asking voters to stay clear of the polling stations, the government gave security forces a carte-blanche to take people out to vote.

"These elections were held to show the world that normality has returned to Kashmir and people have reposed their faith in the democratic process," said a political observer.

In 2002, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari, who emphasised on Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat (Humanity) and Jamhooriyat (Democracy) to find a resolution to Kashmir issue, promised free and fair elections in the Valley. During these elections, Mufti's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) formed the government with the support of Congress party.

Elections and the Kashmir issue for New Delhi have always been synonym. After every election, New Delhi trumpeted about the return of normalcy to the Valley. A good voting percentage was used by government not only to delegitimise separatist leaders but also digress the attention of the world from the Kashmir issue.

The elections of 2009 which brought National Conference back to assembly were largely hailed because of the large participation of people in the electoral process. Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India, billed the highest voter turn as "a vote for democracy".

"Even many political leaders in Indian mainland said that Pakistan should now know that what the people of Jammu and Kashmir want," said Ahmad. The 2009 elections were significant as they were held immediately after the Amarnath land row which brought tens of thousands to the streets in Kashmir and led to the collapse of PDP-Congress government.

During these polls, BJP also won 11 seats from Jammu for the first time.

"The political parties are the vehicles for peoples' participation in the electoral process. It is bizarre that people who strengthen the democracy are booked under PSA,"Ahmad said.

The controversial Public Safety Act was originally formulated to rein in forest smugglers during the regime of Sheikh Mohamad Abdullah in 1978. The law has, however, been frequently used for political vendetta and retribution. Amnesty International, in its 2010 report, A Lawless Law: Detentions under Public Safety Act (PSA) said that around 10,000 to 20,000 were detained under the law since its inception.

In a recently released report, J&K Coalition of Civil Society (J&KCCS) and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) said that 412 persons were detained under the PSA after the ruling dispensation read down the special provisions of Jammu and Kashmir.

During the 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign, Omar Abdullah had promised that he would revoke the draconian law if voted to power in the upcoming Assembly polls. The elections, which are due for long, have not been held; Omar Abdullah and his father, however, were booked under PSA.

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