In South Kashmir, a new crisis: attacks on houses of political workers

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Srinagar, Workers and activists associated with mainstream political parties continue to be under attack in South Kashmir areas, with gunmen barging into their houses and asking them to stay away from their political activities. In a fresh incident, police sources told Greater Kashmir that unknown gunmen barged into the house of a political worker at Soaf Shali village in Kokernag area of Anantnag district last night and ransacked the household belongings. “They severely thrashed the worker and asked him to tender an apology for being affiliated to a mainstream party or be ready for the consequences,” the sources said.

Following the incident, police arrested two persons from the village, including a local Jamat-i-Islami leader, Naushad, who is the socio-religious organization’s ‘Halqa Ameer’ of Soaf-Shali.

“The incident happened two hours after suspected militants shot dead a political worker, Bashir Ahmad Dar, and injured another, Altaf Ahmad Dar, after barging into their houses in Qasbayar village of Rajpora, Pulwama. Last week, militants had asked these two political workers to desist from their pro-India political activities and tender an apology in a local Masjid on Friday. However, they did not follow the ‘diktat’ and were attacked,” the sources said.

Militants, according to them, have asked several political workers in south Kashmir to desist from pro-India political activities and announce publicly their dissociation from all mainstream political parties.

“During the past week, unidentified gunmen barged into houses of over 20 workers of different mainstream parties in Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts and, after thrashing them, asked them to tender an apology for supporting the mainstream parties,” the sources said.

On April 10, suspected militants barged into the house of a political worker in Kadipora locality of Anantnag town. “The political worker was not present in his house and the militants left after warning his family,” the sources said.

Several videos have gone viral on social networking sites wherein some workers of mainstream political parties are seen tendering an apology and dissociating themselves from the mainstream parties in presence of gunmen who are not visible in the videos. These workers are also seen raising pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.

In one of the videos, which went viral on social media, a trade association leader from Chatipora village of Pulwama—reportedly affiliated with a political party—is seen tendering an apology for mainstream political activities, while in another video, another political worker from Koil village of Awantipora is seen giving an assurance to gunmen that he would snap all his ties with the mainstream political party he is affiliated with.

Three more videos reportedly shot in Pulwama district—where political workers of mainstream parties are seen seeking an apology and disassociating themselves from political activities in front of armed men— have also gone viral.

Police claimed militants have also barged into houses of several policemen in Shopian and Kulgam districts during the past few weeks and threatened them.  “Last night, militants barged into houses of two policemen in two villages of Shopian district and asked them to resign from their jobs,” police sources said.

Sources said some political workers were targeted by gunmen during the last year’s summer uprising too. “The gunmen in 2016 went door-to-door in Bijbehara town in search of political workers and thrashed them inside their houses during night hours. Many of them had later publicly announced their resignation from the political parties they were affiliated with,” they said.

A senior police official from South Kashmir acknowledged that workers of mainstream parties are “under pressure from militants to resign.”

“Yes, militants have been harassing the political workers and their families. We are investigating these incidents,” he said, insisting not to be quoted by name. However, he quickly added: “It is a temporary phase and would end soon.”

Chief spokesperson of ruling People’s Democratic Party, Mehboob Beg, admitted that space for mainstream parties has shrunk. But, he said, “violence and intimidation are no solution to any problem.”

“Everyone is entitled to his views but violence and intimidation won’t yield anything,” he told Greater Kashmir.

He said: “The space for mainstream politicians in Kashmir is shrinking and Government of India needs to address the political issue.”

“Government of India should start the peace process by implementing the Agenda of Alliance signed between PDP and BJP,” he said.

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