Militant raids on the houses of politicians, political workers threaten democracy in Kashmir
In a disturbing new trend that threatens the survival of democracy in the Valley, militants have been attacking the houses of senior politicians and political workers in parts of South Kashmir, calling on them to quit or face the bullet.
On Thursday and Friday, grenades were hurled at the houses of the PDP legislators from Shopian and Pulwama districts respectively. On Sunday, the house of an ex-MLA from the National Conference was attacked. One CRPF personnel was also injured in the incident.
Similarly, militants also barged into the residence of PDP zonal president Peer Ashraf at Dadsara Tral. They ransacked his house and fired several rounds in the air.
The houses of the PDP workers Fayaz Ahmad Mir of Wachi, Zainapora Shopian and Abdul Hameed Bhat of Rezipora were also attacked. The two workers were held at gunpoint and asked to quit politics.
Later, videos of their interrogation were circulated on social media to send a message across to other activists.
Militants: “Who are you working with?”
Fayaz Ahmad Mir: “I work with the PDP”.
Militants: “Why does your government ransack our houses?”
Fayaz Ahmad Mir: “The PDP’s purpose is to suppress this movement. That is why they do it. That is why I am no longer with the party.”
Militants: “If you do this to our houses, we will do the same to your houses and the houses of the policemen. You disrespect our mothers and sisters, we can do the same thing to your mothers and sisters.”
Fayaz Ahmad Mir: “I am not with the PDP. I am with you now.”
Militants: “What does your party give you for this betrayal? We give our blood for Kashmir's cause and for all of you. If we again hear you and your colleagues are working for the PDP, we will fill your stomach with bullets.”
Similarly, in the video shot with Abdul Hameed Bhat, militants are seen threatening “families of the workers of the PDP, National Conference and policemen” with mass migration in case security agencies continued to raid militant households.
The conversations are instructive as to the grim state of affairs prevailing in South Kashmir which is definitely going to have some effect on the morale of mainstream political workers elsewhere in the Valley as well.
Political parties have already responded with alarm and some took to social media to express their concerns.
State spokesperson for the National Conference, Junaid Azim Mattu, tweeted –
Spate of attacks on mainstream political leaders and workers in Kashmir is alarming, threatens the existence of the democratic system in J&K— Junaid Azim Mattu (@Junaid_Mattu) October 22, 2017
Similarly, Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir, NC’s ex-MLA from Rajpora constituency in South Kashmir, urged the security forces to rethink their strategy of raiding the militants' houses.
“The action by the government forces has shrunk the political activities of mainstream parties as militants have now started to retaliate by attacking the houses of these mainstream parties, which are soft targets. Now the houses of Army soldiers and policemen have also been attacked. It clearly demonstrates that militant action is in retaliation to the ransacking of their houses by forces,” he said.
Incidentally, the militant attacks on mainstream political workers are taking place in a political environment where such retaliations are witnessing complete public support.
Last week, when a militant Showkat Kumar was killed during a scuffle at the residence of the PDP worker Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh whom they shot dead, a mob furious over militant’s killing subsequently burnt the worker’s house too.
These militant raids on houses have thus confronted the democracy in the Valley with one of its gravest challenges. It has proved that despite the record 165 killings of militants this year, militancy remains a force to reckon with. The militants still retain the ability to strike anytime, anywhere, including fortified houses of the senior mainstream politicians, sitting legislators and even those of ordinary party workers.
The raids on ordinary party workers threaten to deprive the parties of their grassroots cadre who are so critical for the operations of the already-stressed democracy in the Valley.
Pertinently, the Election Commission hasn’t been able to hold the byelections to the Anantnag Parliament seat yet. The seat fell vacant after Mehbooba Mufti quit it to take over as J&K chief minister. The election was deferred early this year after less than 7% votes were polled in the election to the Srinagar constituency and the election day violence claimed eight lives.
“The threat is very real. More raids on the houses of the political workers or killings of one or two more could trigger migration of their families. And also force the workers to give up politics,” says the columnist Naseer Ganai.
The Valley’s hobbled Panchayat Raj is a reminder that such a prospect is possible. A significant number of the panches and sarpanches across the Valley have resigned in recent years after militants started killing them.
Hundreds of them tendered their resignations through paid advertisements in the local newspapers. Many who couldn’t do so through the media, rushed to their village mosques to announce the decision. In South Kashmir, the panchayat system has completely collapsed.
The panchayat elections had been held in the state after a gap of thirty-four years in 2010. Around 35,000 panches and sarpanches had been elected. But in 2017, the grassroots democracy ironically retains little presence on the ground.
Does such a fate await the electoral democracy too? The scenario looks probable if we go by the current state of fear among the political workers in the Valley.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen