The police on Thursday arrested separatist leaders ahead of the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The arrests come days after many of them gave a call to boycott the five-phase polls. While the police said those arrested were against election, separatists said the action exposed the “hollowness of the democratic process in Kashmir.”
“If these were real elections and there was real democracy, these arrests would not have been made. Why is this State so afraid of us speaking to the people that they arrest us before their election campaign,” Syed Ali Geelani, chairman of the Hurriyat’s hardline faction, told The Hindu.
Among the leaders arrested were Yasin Malik (chairman, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) and Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Mohammad Yousuf Naqash, and Zafar Akbar Bhat (all Hurriyat). Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was also put under house arrest.
A senior police official told The Hindu that they had arrested several separatist leaders and more arrests were going to be made. He said separatist leaders were arrested before every election.
“The Election Commission is very strict about anti-poll activities and they ask us to enforce the warrants and take people in preventive detention,” the official said.
Chief spokesperson of the People’s Democratic Party, Nayeem Akhter, said the arrests were against the fabric of democracy.
“The separatists have every right to put forth their ideas as long as they don’t force anyone to follow them. Democracy is a clash of ideas and within a democracy they should not be arrested for asking people to boycott the polls,” Mr. Akhter said.