PAGD leaders including three former chief ministers were put under house arrest Saturday before a protest against the proposals of J&K Delimitation Commission, prompting angry reactions from political parties which said such steps will only "incentivise and facilitate" violent agitations.
The day began by police parking trucks outside the residences of top National Conference leaders and former CMs Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami. They were conveyed that they were under house arrest.
The protest call was given by the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) -- an amalgam of various mainstream political parties in J&K including the NC, the PDP, CPI (M), Peoples Movement and Awami National Conference.
"Good morning and welcome to 2022," tweeted Omar Abdullah, who stays with his father. "A new year with the same JK police illegally locking people in their homes and an administration so terrified of normal democratic activity. Trucks parked outside our gates to scuttle the peaceful @JKPAGD sit-in protest. Some things never change."
He said the police had even locked the internal gates of their residence.
Talk about a lawless police state, the police have even locked the internal gate connecting my father's home to my sister's. Yet our leaders have the cheek to tell the world that India is the largest democracy, hah!! Omar, who is the vice president of the NC, said.
He posted pictures of a police vehicle parked on the gate of their residence as well as that of a locked internal gate.
The PDP chief said the Centre was "deeply paranoid and intolerant when people of J-K want to protest against its disempowerment".
GOI trumpets scrapping Article 370 and dismembering JK throughout the country but is deeply paranoid and intolerant when people of JK want to protest against its disempowerment. For the umpteenth time, we've been placed under house arrest for trying to organise a peaceful protest,' Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.
Tarigami said it was sad that the J-K administration was scared even to allow a peaceful protest.
In Kashmir, New Year began on another disappointing note where Police resumed their work of scuttling the legitimate voices and squeezing democratic space by cracking down on protests against the Delimitation Commission. Entire PAGD leadership including me have been put under house arrest, Tarigami wrote on Twitter later.
In a scathing attack over the government's move, Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone said democracy is a precious relic for which thousands have laid down their lives in the last three decades.
By stopping political and non-violent protests, the administration was incentivising and facilitating the conditions for a violent form of protest, he said.
Please do not unwittingly or erroneously damage it beyond recognition. Non-violent mode of protest in the context of violent strife needs to be facilitated not stifled. If you stop political, non-violent protests what are you incentivising by default. You are incentivising and facilitating and setting the conditions for a violent form of protest, Lone wrote on Twitter.
The PC chief said the right to protest is intrinsic to the concept of a vibrant democracy.
"I can't see any valid reason y the state administration should stop political parties from protesting. Isn't right to protest intrinsic to the concept of a vibrant democracy. Not being critical. But state administration really needs to reassess and reevaluate," he wrote.
Notwithstanding the detentions of its leaders, scores of the NC and the PDP activists took out separate protest marches here near their party offices against the detention of their leadership and the draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission.
The NC activists, including the party's spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar and party's youth wing president Salman Sagar, took out a protest march from NC headquarters Nawa-i-Subah here.
They party activists tried to move towards Gupkar Road -- which houses Abdullah's residence -- but were stopped by the police outside the party office.
"We wanted to take out a peaceful protest march against the Delimitation Commission's draft proposals, but were stopped by the police. They did not even allow us to hold a sit-in, Dar said, adding the police "dragged" them back to the party office.
Similarly, PDP activists also took out a protest march, and demanded the restoration of Articles 370 and 35-A which were revoked by the Centre on August 5, 2019. They were stopped by the police near GPO and later dispersed peacefully.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba praised their party colleagues for taking out the protests.
"Well done to my @JKNC_ and @YNCJK colleagues for managing to come out and register our protest about all that is being done to disempower the people, Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
Mehbooba tweeted, "Despite the despotic administration's attempts to foil our protests, PDP and NC workers managed to hit the streets in Srinagar today to raise their voice against the illegal revocation of Article 370. I salute their courage and resolve."
The People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) has termed the proposal by Delimitation Commission of adding six seats to Jammu region against only one to Kashmir valley as "divisive".
The trucks placed at the residences of the political leaders were removed in the evening.