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Promises for power continue


As parliamentary elections are underway, election promises by the candidates and their campaigners are all time high. They are promising everything under the sun. National Conference leadership, the state’s key pro India party, is leading the election campaign with all the promises it knows would never be fulfilled. National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah once again repeated his rhetoric of abolishing Public Safety Act(PSA) if his party comes to power. The former chief minister, during a rally in Khanabal,Anantnag, said the party will withdraw all the cases against the stone pelters and will also abolish Public Safety Act (PSA) if it is voted to power. Interestingly, the party has made similar promises in the past as well but once attaining power, it, like its rival PDP, has put the issue on the back burner. Instead, the draconian law that PSA is has been used with more impunity than ever in the recent years. In north Kashmir alone, official data reveals that as many as 779 persons have been slapped with PSA from 2009 to 2017.Omar and president of his rival party PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, both served as J&K’s Chief Ministers during these years. The law was introduced during the Sheikh Abdullah government in the 1970s, initially to discourage timber smuggling. However, it has often been used by the successive state governments against their own people, drawing severe criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad.At present, according to January 2019 figures, there are as many as 230 people who have been booked under the Public Safety Act in 2018 alone. Recently, after Government of India banned the socio-religious group, Jamaat-e-Islami (J&K), the authorities detained hundreds of its members and slapped PSA against many of them. Other than this protection of special status of the state has been the scoring point for valley based political parties. Kashmir-centric political parties, on threatened to fight against BJP’s election commitment of abrogation of the Article 370 and annulling the Article 35A. The BJP has made the promise in its election manifesto .Peoples Conference leader, Sajad Lone, whom the BJP has been supporting, has also criticised the move and said it would be a “disaster”. National Conference chief, Farooq Abdullah, who is seeking re-election to the Lok Sabha from Srinagar, said abrogation of Article 370 will pave way for “Azadi” (independence) for the people of the state. Pakistan has also warned that abrogation of the Article 370 will not be accepted. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal had, on Saturday, claimed that abrogation of the Constitutional provision by India is violative of UN resolutions.PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is using the special status of the state and the buzz surrounding it to stage a comeback after her party’s coalition government with the BJP fell last year.She has adopted a more hardline posture than any of the regional parties on the issues related to Article 35A and Article 370. “The relationship between our state and the country is based on our special constitutional position that legitimises it. If we remove, what legalises this relationship, it will turn into an occupation and colonization,” she recently said. On the other hand Sajad Lone, who was a minister in the PDP-led coalition government in the state from the BJP quota, has also vowed to defend the state’s special status.”Article 35A is a matter of faith and dignity for the people of the J&K through which the Constitution of India guarantees to safeguard the special identity and unique status of Jammu & Kashmir. In matters of pride and identity, profit and loss is immaterial. Can a country allow a foreign country to undermine its sovereignty and national pride just for the sake of some monetary gains,” Lone asked.Although Congress leaders in their campaign have focussed more on issues dominating the discourse at national level, the local leaders have made it a point to raise the issue of protecting the special status in electioneering in the valley.”No power in the world can revoke Article 370 and Article 35-A,” state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who is contesting from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, claimed.