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Power play: #JNUcrackdown has caught PDP on the wrong foot

Gowhar Geelani | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:43 IST

Unlike most other political voices in the valley, the PDP has been unusually guarded in its reaction to the JNU crackdown and the alleged harassment of Kashmiri students by the Delhi police.

The reason isn't difficult to guess: the party is renegotiating its alliance with the BJP.

After the hanging of Afzal Guru - an event to commemorate whose death anniversary triggered the JNU crackdown - the PDP had called it a "travesty of justice" and demanded the return of his mortal remains from Tihar jail.

Also read - Ram Madhav renews alliance hope, but is PDP-BJP rift too deep to fix?

No wonder it isn't speaking out publicly now that the BJP has made the JNU episode the latest centrepiece of its hyper-nationalist idea.

Predictably, the party's leaders are deflecting questions on the issue. The youth leader and former political analyst in the CM's Secretariat Waheed Ur Rehman Parra had this to offer by way of a response: "Democracy becomes vibrant only when dissent is not only respected but given space as well."

"See, we have taken up the matter of safety of Kashmiri students studying in various parts of India with our party president Mehbooba Muftiji," Parra told Catch. "I am sure that she has taken up the matter with appropriate quarters."

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Asked whether the BJP's fresh flogging of the "Afzal Guru issue" would affect the PDP's ongoing coalition negotiations with the BJP, Parra said, "Only Mehboobaji is empowered to make a comment on this."

The party's stand on the issue is in marked contrast with a majority of Kashmir's politicians, academics, journalists, lawyers and students.

They condemned the police action against JNU's protesting students, the assault on student leader Kanhaiya Kumar as well as journalists at Patiala House Court, the alleged harassment of Kashmiri students in Delhi, and the hounding of certain students by sections of the media whom they have dubbed "anti-nationals" and "terrorist sympathisers".

Here are a few voices of protest from a cross-section of the Kashmiri society:

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister

"Cracking down on students & using #HafizSaeed to justify the crackdown is a new low, even for this NDA government. #JNUCrackdown."

His party, the National Conference, also issued a strongly-worded statement. "If the Delhi Police and the home ministry want to unleash a dictatorial and tyrannical crackdown on dissenting voices and students in Delhi, they should not make Kashmiri students convenient scapegoats and stigmatise them and ruin their careers. It's is unacceptable."

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Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, CPI(M) legislator

"The police are arresting innocent students. The JNU campus is virtually under siege. It is a hate campaign unleashed by the ABVP and associates of the BJP and the RSS. The voices of dissent are being suppressed and isolated."

Engineer Abdul Rashid, independent MLA

He reiterated his stand that Afzal Guru's execution was a "judicial murder", and added, "We strongly condemn the police action against the students and the arrest of SAR Geelani."

Asiya Andrabi, separatist leader

"Arresting intellectuals, slapping sedition charges on them and using other coercive acts can't give New Delhi an exit from the mess it's caught in. The Indian state should learn to accept the ground realities, howsoever bitter they might be."

It's a hate campaign unleashed by associates of the Sangh Parivar: @tarigami on #JNUcrackdown

Aala Fazili, Kashmir University researcher

"The student community in Kashmir has been facing the heat for the last seven decades. Now the Indian state, through its neo-colonial apartheid, is only exposing itself by putting unprecedented curbs on free speech and intellectual debate in its academic institutions."

"The students who have raised their voices for Kashmiris deserve our solidarity but our struggle continues with or without them."

Sehar Iqbal, social activist

"This very direct extension of solidarity from young Indian students, community leaders and academics deserves our attention. They have represented aspirations of Kashmiris."

Tabish Habib, entrepreneur

"When you speak of the great Indian democracy and advocate free speech, how does speaking what you feel make you anti-national? Or is it because speaking for Kashmir is anti-national?"

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First published: 19 February 2016, 11:16 IST
Gowhar Geelani

Gowhar Geelani is a journalist, commentator and political analyst from Srinagar. He was formerly with Deutsche Welle, Germany.