Fear prevails in south Kashmir among workers of pro-India parties

Don’t know if this is threat or hatred towards us, says nervous PDP worker who, like many, has shifted to Srinagar

Aakash Hassan
Srinagar: Workers of pro-India political parties are dreading to step out of their homes in south Kashmir after a string of attacks, including on the houses of elected legislators, have made them feel “threatened”.
“The mainstream political space is yet to be regained in the south,” a senior party worker of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) told Kashmir Reader. “We had to completely abstain from any political activity after the killing of Burhan Wani (on July 8 last year). Later, there were efforts to reclaim the mainstream space, and we did some activities.” But now, he said, the prevalent situation was “dangerous”.
“You cannot work openly or go to meet party leaders,” the senior PDP worker said, requesting that only his first name, Firdous, be mentioned. “If we do so, we are treated as traitors. We know that if a Burhan-like situation occurs again, we will not be spared, unlike last time.”
After the killing of Burhan Wani in Anantnag district of south Kashmir, several workers of pro-India political parties had resigned.
“Most of the first-line workers have re-joined active politics, and the loyal workers are doing small activities, but showing open support to these (pro-India) parties in most of south Kashmir is not possible yet,” said Nazir Ahmad, worker of a “party” in Breng area of Anantnag.
Leaders of the opposition parties blame the government for mishandling the situation. “We are not able to move openly. There is fear in our workers,” said MLA Pahalgam, Altaf Kaloo. “It is all happening because of mismanagement of the situation and use of unnecessary force.”
Workers of pro-India parties in south Kashmir said that they feel threatened. “The killing of political workers has increased our fear. If a worker can be killed at his home, you can see how bad the situation is,” said a worker of the PDP who is staying in Srinagar for the past few months and visits home in south Kashmir during day-time only.
Earlier this week, militants shot dead Mohammad Ramzan Sheikh, a senior worker of the PDP and a former sarpanch at his home in Wachi area of Shopian district. A militant also died, in a “scuffle”, the police said. The next day, as the family was mourning Ramzan’s death, a group of people attacked their house and set it on fire.
The killing and the arson that followed sent shock waves among the pro-India political workers in south Kashmir.
A worker of the PDP who knew Ramzan closely said, “When he was shot dead, it was his family who had to rush him to hospital. There was not even a single neighbour who came to their help. I don’t know whether it is a threat or plain hatred towards us,” he said in a nervous low voice, confiding that he is staying put at a friend’s place in Srinagar.
Earlier this month, PDP MLA Aijaz Mir, who represents Wachi constituency, got married. His wedding was a low-key event and a secret one.
“Except the family, no one knew about the wedding,” said a PDP worker who is close to the MLA. “Security was one of the main reasons that made the function a silent one.”
A number of pro-India political workers are already staying put in Srinagar and are reluctant to go home in south Kashmir.
In Dialgam area of Anantnag district, where a PDP worker, Mohammad Ishaq Parray, was shot dead in the month of August, people say that since the killing, a hush has descended on all political activity in the constituency represented by the chief minister.
Militants have repeatedly denied the killing of political workers, but a senior police official said, “After the killing of the PDP worker in Wachi, the militants have been exposed. This has frustrated the militant ranks and they can target more political persons.”
This week, there have been two grenade attacks on consecutive days on residences of two PDP MLAs. On Thursday, a grenade was hurled on the house of the Wachi MLA in Zainapora, and next day another grenade was hurdled at the residence of the Tral MLA.