PAGD writes to EC, cites 'discriminatory' security arrangements for DDC candidates

The president of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) Dr Farooq Abdullah on Saturday wrote a letter to the Election Commissioner of J&K, KK Sharma, seeking “transparent security arrangements for candidates” contesting the District Development Council (DDC) polls beginning November 28.

“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC elections. A strange and a unique feature has come to the fore. Candidates put up by the PAGD are immediately whisked away to ‘secure locations’ in the name of security and confined to those ‘secure locations’. They are not allowed to canvas, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes,” reads the PAGD letter.

In the letter, Dr Abdullah said PAGD was “aware about the security challenges” but informed the Election Commissioner that “earlier all contestants used to be provided a security cover irrespective of the party they represented”. 

“Our parties have been in power in the past and have had the opportunity to head and run the government. We are aware of the challenges posed in the realm of security in a place beset by violence. These challenges are not new but have been painfully persisting for the last three decades. But the government had structures in place which ensured security for all contestants irrespective of the ideology they espoused or the parties they represented,” the PAGD letter reads.

In the letter, PAGD president has decried that security cover was being provided “to a selected few candidates” adding that it “cannot be used as a tool or an excuse to interfere in democratic processes”.

“The current state of affairs in the realm of security is blatantly oriented towards providing security to a select few and confining others. This comes across more as an attempt to interfere in the democratic process than any real concern for the wellbeing of the contestants. Security cannot and should not be used as a tool or an excuse to interfere in democratic processes,” the PAGD letter has stated.

In the letter, Abdullah said: “The democracy is in a state of fragility in J&K and no government has the right to alter the institutional foundation of democracy in J&K, nourished by the sacrifices of thousands of political workers.” He said that these security challenges are not new here and that they have been “painfully persisting for the last three decades in the Valley”.

“The democratic journey is a bloodied journey in the Valley, soaked in the blood of thousands of political workers who have laid down their life for the sake of democracy,” Abdullah said in the letter.

He said that using ‘security’ as a reason to modify the democracy is a “desecration of those sacrifices when the very conflict that consumed their lives is used as an alibi to customize the democracy.”

It may be recalled that in the first phase of polls to be contested on November 28, NC has fielded 21 candidates while PDP fielded 4 and PC 2 candidates. 27 candidates have been fielded to contest the second phase of polls to be held on December 1 and 16 candidates for the third phase to be held on December 4. The election commission has announced DDC polls on 280 seats in 8 phases in J&K.

On November 9, Dr Abdullah  had said candidates of the amalgam’s constituents will fight the DDC polls on their own party symbols. The DDC poll would be the first major political activity to take place in J&K since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year. The polling for the first phase would be held from 7 am to 2 pm on November 28. The counting of votes for all the phases of DDC polls would be on December 22.