The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday refused permission to the Peoples Democratic Party to hold a youth convention in Srinagar, citing Covid-19 curbs, The Indian Express reported.

The convention was to be held at 11 am at party chief Mehbooba Mufti’s home in the city’s Gupkar Road. However, the executive magistrate of South Srinagar declined permission following a report by the senior superintendent of police and due to Covid-19 protocols.

The executive magistrate directed the concerned station house officer to make sure that the event does not take place without the competent authority’s approval. The police have placed barricades on the roads leading up to Mufti’s home.

Peoples Democratic Party youth leader Mohit Bhan described the administration’s order as arbitrary and anarchical, The Hindu reported.

He also claimed that Mufti had been placed under house arrest. “Putting curbs in the name of Covid-19 only when PDP connects with its cadre and masses means it unnerves the rulers in Delhi and J&K,” Bhan added.

However, the Jammu and Kashmir Police denied that Mufti had been placed under house arrest. It claimed that there were credible inputs of vehicle-bound improvised explosive devices being used to target civilians and high security installations.

“Allowing large number of vehicles to be parked in this high security zone [Gupkar Road] would have jeopardised the security in the area,” the police said in a press release. It added that no official residence had been known to have hosted large political rallies on Gupkar Road in the recent past.

The police said that the administration has advised the party to apply for holding the event in a more open area “in view of Covid-19 and security reasons”.

However, Mufti accused the administration of using the pandemic an excuse to stop the convention, India Today reported. “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi can do rallies in Uttar Pradesh, then how will Covid spread by our meeting?” she asked in a press conference.

She questioned why the Covid guidelines were only applicable to her party. The Peoples Democratic Party chief claimed that thousands of people who sought to come to the convention were stopped and beaten up, and their clothes were torn.

Mufti also said in a video message said that the convention was a way for her to understand matters concerning young people, but the administration sabotaged it. In the video, Mufti was seen walking through the venue where the convention was to be held.

“An attempt is being made to push young people away from democracy and towards violence, so that it is easier to beat them up and jail them,” Mufti said. She added that when young people seek to leave their homes, they become victims of bullets, batons or they are locked up in jails.

Mufti also referred to the recent virtual address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Summit for Democracy organised by United States President Joe Biden.

“Recently, the prime minister spoke at length about India’s democracy,” Mufti said. “But in Jammu and Kashmir, they have eliminated all signs of democracy.”

She added, “We must not give up, and must not bend.”