Anantnag: Following the cancellation of Anantnag by-polls in May this year the restive south Kashmir region has remained devoid of any political activity, from pro-India parties.
Even ahead of the by-poll -postponed from April 12 to May 25 and then cancelled altogether on May 2-the political activity in the region was subdued, with most of the campaigning carried out indoors.
The poll was cancelled in wake of widespread violence in valley parts on the eve of Srinagar Lok Sabha by-poll, resulting in killing of at least eight civilians.
More than six months after, the situation has not changed much.
South Kashmir has seen no worker conventions, public rallies or even small scale workers meets of pro-India political parties.
There has particularly been no political activity on behalf of the main opposition parties including Congress and National Conference (NC), even as the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has tried reaching out to people through Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s public outreach programme.
The PDP spokesperson, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra says PDP was playing the ruling party as well as the opposition.
“The opposition has been doing no politics in south Kashmir. They are non-existent in south Kashmir and the only political activity visible in the region is because of our party,” Parra said, adding that the opposition should come forward and play their role.
While there might be other reasons to this utter absence of political parties from ground, the pressure exerted by militants in the region cannot be ruled out as well.
Armed militants over the last few months have barged into houses of many pro-India political workers-particularly in Pulwama-and warned them to shun their affiliations. The move followed the government forces assault on the families of militants in south Kashmir villages.
The militants have videotaped their actions against these political workers and have put these videos on social media, creating an atmosphere of fear.
Some workers were even killed by unidentified gunmen, including a Bahartiya Janata Party (BJP) youth leader in Shopian district.
Also, houses of several politicians in Tral and Shopian areas were attacked with hand grenades.
“I have never felt this helpless. I even migrated to Srinagar for over a month or so before reluctantly returning. Even now I fear venturing out at odd hours for the fear of getting shot,” a PDP worker from Pulwama district told Kashmir Reader.
He said he has been avoiding party meetings, even if the venue for them is Srinagar.
“If this is how we feel with our party in power, I can understand how the workers of other parties must be feeling,” he said.
Opposition NC lawmaker from Pahalgam Altaf Kuloo said a rise in militancy has been a deterrent to political activities.
“This is the only reason there has been no political activity in south Kashmir. Even ruling party MLA’s with all their security apparatus are afraid of visiting their homes, how can we expect the worker to put his life on line,” Kuloo said.
Members of Congress acknowledge the influence of militant activities but add that the cancellation of by-polls by the government at the eleventh hour added to the fear psychosis.
“We have been living under the shadow of gun for almost 30 years now. The situation has never been this bad. Government to a certain extent is responsible for allowing the fear psychosis to grow beyond measure,” a Congress leader told Kashmir Reader, requesting not to be named for reasons of “party discipline”.
Attempts to reach JKPCC Chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, and several other south Kashmir based Congress leaders proved futile.
Congress lawmaker from Devsar, Muhammad Amin Bhat, though maintained that he is in his constituency and carrying out political activities like before.
“I was in a public meeting today as well. I don’t leave my constituency, not even when all other lawmakers run to Jammu,” Bhat said.
Bhat’s “public meetings” apart, for now the electoral politics seems to be in dire straits in south Kashmir.