Shehla Rashid has announced that she has taken an exit from mainstream politics after having joined the Jammu Kashmir People’s Party. The state Chief Electoral Officer for Jammu and Kashmir, Shailendra Kumar, during a recent press conference, announced that the BDC polls and counting of the votes would take place on October 24 this year. This will be most screened as this will be the first electoral exercise to be held in Kashmir after the Centre abrogated down Article 370 of the constitution and passed a bill in the parliament for the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate union territories. This was condemned worldwide, given the state of the valley even after two months since the historic announcement was made. In light of the events, Shehla Rashid has given up on electoral politics. She states reasons for the appalling disregard in the Centre for the laws and constitutional spirit in light of the clampdown in Kashmir.
Shehla Rashid began her career as the vice-president of Jawahar Lal Nehru Student Union [JNUSU], when then president, Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested. She then joined the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party, launched by Shah Faesal, who is a former IAS officer. However, post-announcement to join the newly formed political party, she reiterated multiple times that she will continue her activism despite her engagement with mainstream politics.
However, after the announcement by the Center to hold Block Development Council elections in October, she has disassociated herself from mainstream electoral politics.
The decision to hold BDC election has been condemned by other domestic players in mainstream politics as well. Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemned the decision and called it a “travesty of justice”.
Post the blockade in Kashmir after the reading down of Article 370, Ms. Rashid was herself implicated on a post she made on Twitter. She had put up a post on Twitter on August 18, 2019, alleging widespread human rights violations in the Kashmir valley because of a communication blockade where the residents were being denied of the essential services. She noted about armed forces ransacking families in Kashmir by entering the houses at night and picking up members randomly.
Right after, on August 19, 2019, a criminal complaint was filed against Ms. Rashid by an advocate who alleged that her post is deliberately and intentionally spreading fake news. It was alleged that her intention was to incite violence in the country, maligning the image of the Indian Army at both domestic as well as international level. He further alleged that her post of Twitter is causing disaffection towards the Government of India and is seditious under Section 124A of IPC. Apart from sedition, she was charged under Sections 153, 153A, 504, and 505 of IPC, Information Technology Act, amongst others.
On September 3, 2019, an FIR was registered by the Delhi Police Special Cell against Ms. Rashid for offences under IPC Sections 124A, 153A, 153, 504, and 505.
The Kashmir Valley has been under a severe blockade for 65 days now, ever since the Centre read down Article 370 of the constitution, revoking the state’s special status, and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. A large number of political leaders and workers are under house arrest, including two former chief ministers.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had also criticised the decision to hold BDC elections, calling it a “travesty of justice. The move has been seen in the backdrop of the clampdown in Kashmir, depriving the residents of the valley of their right to self-determination.
The Government of India has been continuously stating that ‘normalcy has been restored in the valley’. However, on ground reports do not support this claim made by the government. Centre has shown utter disregard for the laws and customs of the land, disrespecting the spirit of the rule of law. This is nothing but a sham show of electoral exercise for deviating the minds of the general public. It is utterly disgraceful to keep the residents of a democratic country in a situation like this.
Sheila, in her statement, has remarked that the Central Government has preferred Kashmir policy since 1953 has been subterfuge and deceit. Right from an out-and-out upheaval in 1953 to rigged elections in 1987 and stage-managed rhetoric in 2019, Centre has only sophisticated the process of selecting its puppets over time. She remarks that the Centre is on the lookout for new ‘Bakshis’ to legitimise its fresh actions with regard to the state of J&K.
Though she has backed out from mainstream politics, she has made it amply clear that her work as an activist will remain with more voice. She will continue her fight for justice and keep speaking the truth, wherever the voice is required.