Srinagar: The state government is determined to thwart any activity Kashmiri pro-freedom groups might carry out to appeal the people for a boycott of the upcoming Assembly elections.
It is possibly for the first time that Srinagar police chief stated that pro-freedom leaders would be arrested to stop them from carrying out a poll-boycott campaign.
“We won’t allow separatists to run a poll boycott campaign here,” Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Amit Kumar, told Kashmir Reader on Thursday.
Another senior police official, wishing anonymity, said police officers have been directed to arrest anyone they suspect “might create hurdles in the conduct of the elections”.
“Basically, political parties will hold rallies and such people with a history will resort to unlawful activities. To avoid any risk, we have to place them under preventive custody,” he added.
Besides “preventive” arrests, the police have also been asked to remove posters or other material urging people to boycott the elections.
“We also have to ensure that workers of mainstream political parties do not face any problem while pasting or erecting election paraphernalia,” the police official said.
While all pro-freedom parties have appealed to the people to boycott the polls, only a few actively carry out activities, such as public meetings, to campaign against the elections they say “strengthen Indian claims on Kashmir”.
A section of the pro-freedom leadership, including the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference, believes there is no need for a boycott campaign, maintaining that the elections have no bearing on the Kashmir issue.
The Election Commission of India has announced a five-phase election schedule beginning November 25. Within days of the announcement, the police have started to crack down on pro-freedom leaders who had announced that they would be campaigning against the elections.
On Thursday, the police arrested JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, its vice-chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat and general secretary Ghulam Rasool Dar Eidi from Abi Guzar.
During a nocturnal raid, the police also took into custody the entire leadership of Hurriyat Conference Jammu Kashmir, including its senior leader Shabir Ahmad Shah.
The police have also arrested Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani.
Out of power, pro-India political parties often support the right to campaign for a boycott. However, pro-freedom leaders have been invariably arrested before Assembly and parliamentary polls whoever is in power.
Meanwhile, protests erupted in Maisuma area over the arrest of Malik and his aides.