SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
Indian police detained former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at her residence on Friday and also did not allow reporters to attend a news conference she was scheduled to address.
Mehbooba, the first woman chief minister of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, was released in mid-October after a 14-month-long detention. She was one of the several pro-India leaders who were jailed or detained in their homes on or after Aug. 5, 2019 when India scrapped the autonomous status of the disputed region.
“I have been detained again. I have been trying to meet the family of Waheed Parra for the past two days but authorities didn’t allow me. [Ruling party] BJP ministers and their stooges are being allowed to travel to every corner of Kashmir but only my movement becomes a security issue for the government,” she tweeted.
Waheed Parra, a youth leader of Mehbooba’s People’s Democratic Party, was arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency on Wednesday in a militancy case. Mehbooba had termed his arrest a tactic to pressurize political parties ahead of district council elections that begin Saturday.
After police stopped dozens of reporters from entering her residence in Srinagar, she tweeted: “Kashmir is an open air prison where no one has the right to express their opinion.”
She again linked her detention with the council elections, accusing the government of “using fear and intimidation in tandem to muffle any form of opposition”.
One of the vocal critics of India’s decision to scrap autonomy, Mehbooba has criticized the government of India for using its investigating agencies to harass the local pro-India political parties for participating in district council polls.
On Thursday, she had tweeted that the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, planned “foisting puppets and proxies” in Kashmir. But, she added, the surprise announcement by Kashmiri pro-India political parties to contest the polls has “derailed BJP’s designs”.
The council elections have assumed importance in view of the Aug. 5 decision. Either side could showcase the win as an endorsement of its stance on the watershed political decision.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989./aa