On Thursday, security forces foiled the first demonstration by any mainstream political party in the Kashmir Valley since last year’s clampdown on August 5, amid suspicions that the renewed crackdown by the National Investigation Agency was aimed at scaring the usual suspects away from protesting the new land laws.
After protesting leaders and activists of her People’s Democratic Party were rounded up from the streets of Srinagar, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti taunted the Centre, urging it to take on China and not the “helpless people of Kashmir.”
Many in Kashmir believe that the NIA has been launched by the Centre to prevent protests against the new laws that allow “outsiders” to sell property. Past searches and arrests by the anti-terror body are believed to have averted large-scale demonstrations last year against the scrapping of Article 370.
Now, after the Centre approved the new land laws on Tuesday, with tensions flaring across Kashmir and Jammu, the NIA is back in operation.
It carried out raids on journalists, human rights defenders and charities on Wednesday. Nine Valley premises were raided on Thursday, including those of charities and trusts such as the Falah-e-Aam Trust, the Human Welfare Foundation and the J.K. Foundation Yateem. The agency reports that certain groups locally and internationally raise terror funds.
The security forces detained the participants and sealed the party office when the PDP tried to protest the new land laws and the “intimidatory tactics” of the NIA, breaking a 15-month lull in political unrest.
People are free to protest in Jammu, but no protests here are permitted. A PDP leader said, “We decided to (stage the demonstration) so that people would give up their fear.”
Protests in Jammu have reached the Hindu heartland, where many feel the new laws are an attack on the identity of Dogra.
Mehbooba was barred from visiting the police station in Kothi Bagh, where PDP leaders were arrested, leading her to say that the Centre had transformed the Valley into a fortress, but was unable to battle the Chinese.
“The BJP says every day that the situation is natural and does not even allow a former chief minister to visit a police station,” she said.
Go and get the land that China has occupied, that has destroyed so many of our jawbones. No, this can’t and won’t be achieved by the BJP because it can’t overtake China. Instead, it stifles the helpless people of Kashmir.
The BJP government was accused by Mehbooba of trying to “rob” Jammu and Kashmir of their riches and wage cultural violence against the Kashmiris and Dogras.
They turned Kashmir into a prison. They don’t make it possible for someone to express themselves. Neither journalists nor members of civil society are permitted to speak. Voices of protest have been curbed,’ she said.
People in Bihar are asking the BJP for jobs and food and this party is telling them to go to Kashmir and buy land there. Beyond elections, the BJP can not consider. It tricks people and makes use of Kashmir in every election.
Speaking to National Conference staff, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the Valley Parties had unified to campaign for the restoration of special status.
“Anyone who battles for power is cursed …. We no longer count the seats. This battle is not for power or the chief ministry. If we go after power, it will be shameful,’ he said.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration has been floated by seven Valley-based parties to campaign for the restoration of Article 370.