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Authorities bar PDP from holding youth convention

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Mehbooba accuses administration of pushing Kashmiri youth to wall

Srinagar: Authorities on Sunday barred the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from holding a youth convention at its chief Mehbooba Mufti’s residence on the high-profile Gupkar road here citing COVID-19 restrictions and “larger security implications”, including a threat of car bombs, drawing a strong reaction from her.

Police sealed all roads leading to the PDP president’s ‘Fairview’ residence and journalists were also barred from moving towards the venue in the morning.

Noting that it was a high-security zone and a gathering of at least 1000 people was expected, the police said that “it was not advisable” to allow such a large flow of people and unchecked vehicles as there are “credible inputs of vehicle-bound IEDs” being used to target civilians and sensitive installations.

The local administration had advised the PDP to apply for holding this convention in a more open area in view of the COVID-19 and security reasons, a police spokesman said.

The PDP chief, however, said the police’s argument was “ridiculous” and termed it as an excuse to “sabotage” the event.

The former chief minister charged that the government was looking for new ways to “deny rights” to the youth of Kashmir and to “pull them away from democracy and push them on the path to violence”.

In a video message posted on her party’s Twitter handle after the event was barred, the PDP chief said her party will continue the “struggle, peacefully and democratically, for J-K’s prosperity, unity, dignity and to resolve the Kashmir issue”.

“We all have to come together, especially the youth. We have to show them that we are not afraid of them. If we were afraid, then we would also make compromises like other parties,” she said.

She claimed that all other leaders and parties were holding rallies but only PDP was denied permission.

In an order, the Executive Magistrate, First Class, South Srinagar said in view of the report received from the Senior Superintendent of Police and the COVID-19 restrictions in place, “it is hereby ordered that the scheduled youth conference that is to be held by PDP at Gupkar is not allowed.”

The magistrate directed the station house officer (SHO) concerned to “ensure” that no such event takes place “without the permission of the competent authority.”

In a statement, the police spokesman said a gathering of at least 1000 people was expected at the venue and given the prevalent COVID situation and “larger security implications” resulting from allowing such a large number of people and accompanying cars and vehicles into a high-security zone, it was not advisable to allow such a large flow of people and unchecked vehicles.

The spokesman said there are “credible inputs” of vehicle-bound IEDs being used to target civilians and high-security installations.

“The Gupkar Road houses high-security buildings of various organisations and security-sensitive establishments and intelligence agencies. Allowing a large number of vehicles to be parked in this high-security zone would have jeopardised the security in the area,” he said.

He said no such gatherings and amassing of vehicles were allowed on the road earlier as well.

“Moreover, no official residence has been known to have hosted large political rallies on Gupkar Road in the recent past.

“Legal orders for necessary restrictions on the convention were passed by the Executive Magistrate, South Srinagar keeping in mind the COVID protocol and security sensitiveness of Gupkar zone,” the police spokesman said.

However, addressing a press conference at her residence later, Mufti said the administration was “confused” and did not know what excuses to make for stopping the party’s convention.

“First they gave the excuse of COVID. But, since conventions of other parties were on at various places, they thought this excuse will not work. Also, if this (Gupkar area) is not secure — where Badamibagh Cantonment, VVIP residences, Governor House are located – then which place is secure? That is ridiculous,” she said.

The PDP president claimed the party had earlier sought permission for the convention at some other place, but there was no response from the administration.

“Then we thought that since the other parties were organising it, we will also have it here in an open space… Since this is our residence, there was no need for permission,” she said.

She alleged her party workers were roughed up and some of them detained while on their way to the venue.

However, she said, her party “will not surrender”.

“How can the LG’s administration be brazen? You make COVID excuses but allow other parties. I cannot understand this. How can they justify this?” she said. (With PTI inputs)

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