Srinagar, Nov 9: With the first phase of election just two weeks away, the mainstream political parties are feeling the heat as electioneering is yet to pick up. Most of the parties' feel that the arrest of top and second rung separatist leaders has defeated the "battle of ideas."
The president of National Conference, Omar Abdullah, said that had separatists been allowed to carry on with their "campaign," electioneering would have become more interesting.
"Arrest of separatist leaders has defeated the battle of ideas," he told Greater Kashmir.
"We've always maintained that separatists should be allowed to put forth their views," but, "They should not call for strikes and marches as it hampers the normal life and hits the people directly. They could have countered us by holding peaceful rallies," he added.
Omar blamed the erstwhile coalition government. "The PDP-Congress coalition rule vitiated the atmosphere of the state. When we conducted the elections in 2002, people came out in large numbers and voted. In past six years they (PDP-Congress) ruined the state and pushed it towards turmoil when their term was about to end," Omar said.
The president of People's Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti, said when her party headed the coalition government from 2002 to 2005, situation had changed for good and democracy was growing. "Whatever we had gained in three years, Azad Sahib squandered it during his tenure," she said.
"Now the situation is back to square one," Mehbooba said.
"People are being arrested and booked under Public Safety Act. What used to happen before 2002, when Farooq Sahib was heading the state, is being repeated."
The PDP president claimed that when Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was the chief minister, separatist leaders were allowed to move freely and put forth their views openly.
"We held three elections during our tenure. On one side mainstream parties used to address election rallies and on the other separatists used to run their campaign. Democracy is the battle of ideas, but it has been defeated by arresting the separatists," she told Greater Kashmir.
Mehbooba acknowledged that atmosphere has been "vitiated" and people are "disillusioned."
"That is why we were against holding the elections at this juncture," she said, and added, "Elections were imposed on people by NC. It (NC) knows that boycott would benefit them."
The president of the newly formed Democratic Party (Nationalist), Ghulam Hassan Mir maintained that elections have got nothing to do with the resolution of the Kashmir issue. "Election boycott and participation in election is not a new phenomenon in Kashmir," Mir said, and added, "History stands testimony to the fact that the participation of people in elections in past 60 years has varied from 2 percent to 75 percent. People staying away or participating in polls has hardly had any bearing on the Kashmir issue."
Mir said that the only purpose of the election is to form a government, which can take care of the local issues. "There was no harm in allowing separatists to carry on peacefully. It seems government apprehended that their campaign may lead to violence," he said.
"Ball is in the court of people and it's for them to decide whether they want New Delhi's representative here or a Kashmiri who can represent them in New Delhi," the former tourism minister said.
The state secretary of CPI (M), M Y Tarigami, said that his party had always opposed detentions without trial, irrespective of what may be the grounds.
"It has been an irritant in the past and it will remain as an irritant in future also," Tarigami said, and added, "It's unfortunate that those who claim to represent New Delhi project elections as the solution to Kashmir issue, and on the other hand who claim to represent Kashmir cause, term participation in election as endorsement of New Delhi's version."
Tarigami was of the opinion that election should be de linked from the resolution of Kashmir issue.
"This is process is for local governance and nothing else. Our friends need to realize its no referendum," he said.
The chairman of Peoples Democratic Front Hakeem Muhammad Yasin said the crackdown on separatist leadership before election was not a "good step."
"Constitution has given us a right to contest the elections, similarly it grants the right to others to run a boycott campaign. The arrested leaders should be released immediately," Yasin demanded.
The former minister was of the opinion that arrest of separatist leaders has created fear psychosis. "Elections should have been held in healthy atmosphere," he said, and added, "Separatists running the boycott campaign would have made the battle more interesting."
The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee, president, Professor Saifuddin Soz maintained that his party supports all those people who have "democratic aspirations."
For him the arrest of separatist leaders is an administrative issue. "We don't want people to suffer and we are with them," he added.