J&K leaders' release paves way for political activities

Security personnel stand near the site of a grenade blast as residents walk on a roadside at a market place outside the campus of Kashmir's main university in Srinagar on November 26, 2019. (AFP Photo)

The release of a few political leaders, who were under detention since August 5, is paving a way for the revival of political activities in Jammu and Kashmir which had come to a standstill for almost four months.

On Monday, the authorities released the senior leader of PDP and former MLA Mohammad Ashraf Mir and senior politician and former legislator Hakim Mohammad Yasin from MLA Hostel-turned-sub jail in Srinagar. Three other senior politicians and former MLAs, detained in their houses, were also allowed to move freely while other politicians under house detention have been told that they were free to move to Jammu or Delhi in case of any emergency.

These leaders were placed under detention after the Centre abrogated J&K’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5. Sources told DH there was a possibility of more political detainees being released from the MLA Hostel “but a final plan will be worked out by the Union Territory administration with the Centre.”

However, they said, three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar and Mehbooba Mufti – would continue to remain in detention along with a few other leaders, who have potential to mobilise people to protest against the abrogation of Article 370.

“Narendra Modi-led government wants to take no chances by releasing the top leadership of the NC and the PDP. However, at the same time, the Centre is desperate to restart the political process in J&K and hold Assembly polls. For that, some leaders within these two parties have been roped in and a new political group may take shape in J&K in the next few months,” sources revealed.

The new group, they said, is likely to be headed by businessman-turned-politician Altaf Bukhari, who was expelled by the PDP earlier this year. Bukhari was Finance Minister in the previous PDP-BJP alliance.

“He (Bukhari) is currently in Dubai to attend a marriage function, may have met some officials from Pakistani establishment there to make them understand why formation of a new group was important for Kashmir,” sources claimed.

Earlier this year, Bukhari’s brother was reportedly questioned by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in New Delhi over alleged terror funding case. “Bukhari has deep connections in New Delhi as well as Islamabad and he is emerging as a new leader in changed political map of Kashmir,” they added.

From the last two weeks, most of the political parties have again started issuing press statements in Srinagar which had come to a halt after August 5. A PDP leader wishing anonymity told DH that he had been instructed from the party high command, which is in detention, to issue statements to the press.

As internet services continue to remain snapped in Kashmir, spokespersons of political parties are seen visiting newspaper offices personally with statements in pen drives.

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