–Indian police official says arrests are part of crackdown to ensure ‘free and fair’ general elections in May
–India brings in 100 companies of paramilitary troops as tensions continue to soar in region
ISLAMABAD: Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik was among several pro-freedom leaders who were arrested in a crackdown in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) late on Friday.
A senior police official in Srinagar told Reuters that the arrests are part of a crackdown ahead of Indian elections set to be held in May.
“The arrival of more troops and the arrests of leaders and activists of separatist groups is part of an election exercise undertaken to ensure free and fair elections,” said the official.
“Strongly condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami [JI] leadership and cadres, and the arrest of Yasin Malik,” wrote Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Twitter, adding that such “illegal and coercive measures” against Kashmiris were “futile and will not change realities on [the] ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.”
Strongly Condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat e Islami leadership and cadres and the arrest of Yasin Malik. Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiri’s are futile and will not change realities on ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.
— Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (@MirwaizKashmir) February 23, 2019
Indian police took Malik into custody after they raided his Maisuma residence in Srinagar and lodged him at Kothibagh police station, the Kashmir Media Service(KMS) reported.
Yasin Malik’s wife Mishaal Mullick, while commenting on the detention of her husband, said that India had crossed the limits of barbarism in the occupied territory.
In a video message, Mullick said that “the world will have to understand that the [UN] resolutions on Kashmir dispute are essential for regional stability, which is linked to Kashmir issue”.
“India was threatening Pakistan despite its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and barbaric genocide of helpless Kashmiris by its troops,” she added.
According to Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, Hurriyat leaders and workers of the JI have been arrested over the past 24 hours.
In a post shared on Twitter, Mufti said: “Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K [occupied Jammu and Kashmir]. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas.”
In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders & workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas.
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) February 23, 2019
According to KMS, the JI in a statement termed the crackdown a “well-designed conspiracy to further add to the already deteriorated situation in occupied Kashmir”, raising questions over the timing of the arrest “when petitions challenging Article 35-A were listed in the Indian Supreme Court”.
Article 35-A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges.
The KMS added that dozens of leaders and activists of JI were arrested from their residences. The arrested include — JI Ameer, Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz, Advocate Zahid Ali, Ghulam Qadir Lone, Abdur Rauf, Mudassir Ahmed, Abdul Salam, Bakhtawar Ahmed, Muhammad Hayat, Bilal Ahmed and Ghulam Muhammad Dar.
Malik’s arrest comes in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that killed at least 44 paramilitary soldiers in IoK.
Following the attack, Indian authorities withdrew the “security cover” provided to five Kashmiri leaders, including Farooq, who is the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Security cover for Shabir Shah, Hashim Qureshi, Bilal Lone and Abdul Ghani Bhat has also been removed.
On Friday, India’s Supreme Court ordered bolstered protection for Kashmiris who have faced discrimination and violent backlash from Indian citizens in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.
More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to occupied Kashmir from the rest of India to escape reprisals for the attack, which has also ratcheted up regional tensions after India has alleged that those who planned the attacks had links with the Pakistani state — a charge that Islamabad has vigorously denied.
MORE TROOPS IN KASHMIR:
Meanwhile, India on Friday moved thousands of paramilitary troops to further bolster its security presence in occupied Kashmir as tensions continue to rachet up in the valley.
New Delhi authorised and airlifted at least 100 paramilitary companies to the occupied zone following the detention of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chief Yasin Malik on Friday and the arrests of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) workers in the latest crackdown against the resistance leadership.
According to the Hindustan Times, a considerable build-up of security forces was being witnessed across Kashmir after the Pulwama incident.