Amid outrage, senior political leaders set free in Jammu

NC, Congress and J&KPP members in the region let off with strictures on public statements regarding Article 370; no relief for Valley detainees
With the announcement of the Block Development Council (BDC) polls amid growing outrage over continued political detentions, the J&K government on Tuesday released seven senior leaders of the National Conference (NC), Congress and J&K Panthers Party (J&KPP) from the Jammu region Officials said the NC’s Davinder Singh Rana, Surjit Singh Salathia, Javed Rana and Sajjad Ahmed Kitcloo, Congress’ Raman Bhalla and Waqar Rasool and Harsh Dev Singh of the J&KPP had been released. All these leaders had been placed under house arrest under Section 107 of the CrPC since August 5 — when the State’s special status under Article 370 was revoked by the Centre. An NC leader, requesting anonymity, confirmed that the party leaders were told on Tuesday night that “they were free to go anywhere”. Sources, however, said the released leaders have been directed to “desist from issuing any public statements”. The authorities have specifically mentioned the issue of revocation of provisions of Article 370 to the released leaders “to keep away from”. However, there is no time frame for release of dozens of political prisoners, including NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, in the Kashmir Valley, where a spontaneous shutdown continue to mar the daily life. Around 179 mainstream leader remain detained in the Valley, according figures from top officials. Official sources said the release of the leaders is “to provide a level field to political parties” ahead of the BDC elections scheduled for October 24. Both the Congress and the NC have criticised the government move to hold these polls under current circumstances and in absence of means of communication.
The NC has termed the upcoming BDC polls as “biggest mockery of democracy”.
“Announcing BDC polls at a time when the entire leadership of the State is captive is no less than a farce. There were many areas where the locals had no idea about who was contesting from their areas. In other parts of the Valley, candidates were imported from Jammu region and supplanted on the people of Kashmir,” said the NC spokesman in a statement. “The present ruling dispensation is known for its inherent aversion for NC. Our party has traditionally been a thorn in the eyes of RSS-BJP,” he added. In a separate incident, Mohamad Shafi Saroori, brother of Congress leader and ex-minister G.M. Saroori, was arrested for sheltering militants in Jammu’s Kishtwar district.
Police sources Mr. Saroori and five others were involved in “providing logistic support to the Hizbul Mujahideen militants”, who were killed in the Batote encounter on Saturday. The family, however, denied the allegation. “The house which the Kishtwar police claimed was used by the militants was abandoned by the family way back. The house is presently occupied by the tenants, including non-Muslims and police personnel,” said the family in a statement. Mr. Saroori termed the move “as politically motivated to malign his and his family’s image”.

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