Srinagar: The authorities on Saturday foiled a protest sit-in planned by the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) against the draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir by placing its leaders under house arrest.
However, a small group of National Conference (NC) second-rung leaders and activists appeared in Srinagar’s City centre Lal Chowk, chanting slogans against the draft proposals and then walking about fifty yards before the police intercepted them. They were bundled into the police vans and then driven to the nearby police station.
Another group of PAGD activists and supporters, mainly from its constituent People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held a protest demonstration at the nearby The Bund, denouncing the Delimitation Commission proposals.
The Delimitation Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai has in its draft recommendations proposed six additional Assembly seats for Jammu region and one for the Kashmir Valley while reserving nine constituencies for Scheduled Castes and seven for Scheduled Tribes.
Terming it “discriminatory”, the PAGD and other Kashmir-centric political leaders and parties have accused the commission of allowing the “political agenda of the BJP to dictate its recommendations”. The PADG had last week announced that it would hold a protest sit-in at Srinagar on January 1 against the draft proposals as these were “totally unacceptable” to it and the people.
Early on Saturday, the police blocked the entrances to the homes of the key PAGD leaders including Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti by placing their “bunker” vehicles there. CPIM leader and chief spokesman of the PAGD Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said over the phone that he and other alliance leaders were informed verbally by the police officials that they cannot come out of their homes.
NC vice-president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “ Good morning & welcome to 2022. A new year with the same J&K police illegally locking people in their homes & an administration so terrified of normal democratic activity. Trucks parked outside our gates to scuttle the peaceful @JKPAG sit-in protest. Some things never change.”
After the PAGD activists led by the NC youth leader and former Srinagar Mayor Salman Sagar led a protest demonstration at the City centre, Abdullah wrote on micro-blogging site “Well done to my @JKNC_ & @YNCJK colleagues for managing to come out & register our protest about all that is being done to disempower the people”.
PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Government of India trumpets scrapping Article 370 & dismembering J&K throughout the country but is deeply paranoid & intolerant when people of J&K want to protest against its disempowerment. For the umpteenth time, we’ve been placed under house arrest for trying to organise a peaceful protest”.
The Delimitation Commission set up on March 6, 2020 by a law ministry notification was initially asked to examine the issue of redrawing the LoK Sabha and Assembly constitutions simultaneously in J&K, Assam and some other North-East states. But later, when the commission had already laid the groundwork to start the delimitation exercise in these states, the government excluded Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland from its purview for the time being, raising many eyebrows in J&K and beyond. The Centre also extended its term by one-year in March 2021.
The Commission had said in July last year that the responsibility assigned to it was somewhat convoluted and not merely a mathematical game. It, however, assured that the exercise it has taken up will be “very transparent” and had asked the people, political parties, and other stakeholders in the Union Territory (UT) to thrust aside all their fears and apprehensions.
It had also announced that the delimitation will be conducted based on the 2011 census and the final draft prepared after taking all demands and recommendations into account. Also, the final draft will be put in public domain for objections and debate, it had assured.