Azadi camp ‘forced to run’ subdued anti-poll campaign

SRINAGAR: Aware of the tactics usually followed by the state to prevent anti-poll activities before elections, factions of the pro-freedom Hurriyat Conference have opted for a low-key boycott campaign ahead of the parliamentary polls.
While the campaigning by pro-India parties has gained momentum with just two weeks left to the five-phased Lok Sabha polls in the state, the Hurriyat Conference (G) and newly formed Jammu Kashmir Hurriyat Conference (JKHC), are running a rather low-key campaign to convince people to stay away from the polls.
Instead of sticking to the traditional style of holding rallies and processions, Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat is this time concentrating on a door-to-door anti-poll campaign—a move taken to counter the government’s likely response.
“In the past, we have seen how the state arrests or detains our leaders and members to prevent us from holding anti-poll rallies. So, this time we have decided to go for a door-to-door campaign. In fact, we have started it already,” Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar told Kashmir Reader on Wednesday.
The decision on modification to the boycott campaign is said to have been taken by the conglomerate in its last general meeting in presence of Geelani.
“The meeting was held before Geelani Sahab fell ill. And it was decided that our members at various levels will go from door to door to convince people on staying away from polls,” Akbar said, adding, “We will love to stage rallies if the government doesn’t come up with repressive measures.”
Poll boycott called by the pro-freedom camp has always been a feature of the parliamentary or assembly elections in the Valley. And of the Hurriyat factions, Hurriyat (G) was the first to pronounce boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. It called for boycott much before the elections were actually announced.
Hurriyat Conference (M), on the other hand, had come under a lot of criticism from various quarters for maintaining silence on elections. Although Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in his last Friday sermon appealed the public to stay away from polls, the grouping hasn’t announced any anti-poll programmes for the coming weeks.
The stand on elections, in fact, became one of the factors for Hurriyat (M’s) split, giving rise to JKHC, which too has been “forced to run” a subdued boycott campaign.
“We have been attempting to stage rallies, but the government isn’t allowing it,” Shabir Ahmad Shah of JKHC told Kashmir Reader. “We have to give police a slip to be able to reach the venue of rallies. Consequently, we are not able to run a comprehensive anti-poll campaign.”
Recently, Shah said, JKHC has held anti-poll programmes in several north Kashmir areas.
“We had planned a rally in Jammu, but I and our other leaders were arrested midway and forced to return to the Valley,” Shah added. “We are holding a meeting next week to chalk out an intensified anti-poll campaign anyway. And we can only hope that the state doesn’t hinder it.”
Besides the three Hurriyats, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has been attempting to stage anti-election rallies. Last Sunday, JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik visited Khrew in south Kashmir and addressed a public rally.
“The irony is that India is using democracy and democratic institutions to crush, defame and distort freedom movement of Kashmiris. Keeping these facts in view, people of Jammu and Kashmir have no choice but to refrain from participating in these so-called democratic elections,” Malik had said, opposing all pro-India political parties contesting the polls. “They are only serving India and its interests in Kashmir.”
“Those who contest these elections ask people to vote in the name of electricity, water, employments and other day-to-day needs, but after the elections are over these very people and their masters in Delhi project the elections and votes as a vote for India and use this to malign the movement,” Malik had added.