India arrests 75 in restive Kashmir following local polls
Indian authorities have arrested at least 75 Kashmiri political leaders and activists in anticipation of an uprising following the triumph of an alliance of Kashmir's regional political parties in a local election, a senior police official unveiled.
Those arrested included pro-independence leaders and members of the banned Jamat-e-Islami group, who were rounded up in what the government described as preventive custody, the official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The detentions challenge the verdict of the people, said Imran Nabi Dar, spokesman for regional party, the National Conference, and a key member of the alliance.
The District Council election that ended early this week was the first such exercise since the government of India’s ultra-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of the Muslim-majority region under its control last year.
Authorities in New Delhi then waged a crackdown on opposition activists in the restive region and rounded up hundreds of people in purported efforts to forestall protests and violence.
The alliance’s latest victory confirms that Kashmiris have not accepted Modi’s decision to end Kashmir’s special status, said Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister and head of the National Conference.
Following their release from prolonged detention, Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, announced the alliance in October aimed at seeking a peaceful restoration of Kashmir’s autonomy.
Meanwhile, the elections in Kashmir appear to have paved the way for other electoral processes in the volatile region. However, many say this ballot has made people of Kashmir politically aware of the fact that New Delhi is trying to thrust such an electoral process in order to create the impression that normalcy has taken hold after it stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, without actually working on building trust and bridging the gaps.
India last year scrapped the semi-autonomy of its part of Kashmir. New Delhi unilaterally introduced a slew of laws that locals say are aimed at shifting the region’s demographics and economically disempowering local residents.
Modi’s government revoked the New Delhi-controlled Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last year and claimed at the time that ending Kashmir’s special status was necessary for closer integration of the territory into the rest of India.
New Delhi’s approach towards the region has been widely criticized as being an extension of its tolerating instances of egregious discrimination and occasional deadly attacks against Muslims on the mainland.
Kashmir has long been a flash point between India and Pakistan, which have fought three of their four wars over the disputed Himalayan territory. Both countries rule parts of Kashmir while claiming it in full. Thousands of people have been killed since early 1990s.