Political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir said on Saturday that they were placed under detention ahead of a protest by the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration against the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations.

Those who were said to have been placed under detention included three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and PAGD spokesperson MY Tarigami also claimed that he had been detained.

On February 17, 2020, the central government began the delimitation process – or redrawing boundaries – of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will go up from 107 to 114, and delimitation will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

In a draft resolution presented last month, the commission had proposed six new Assembly seats for the Jammu region and one for Kashmir.

While it is a routine effort in some parts of the country, the delimitation process is much more politically sensitive in Jammu and Kashmir because of fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party may use it to alter political outcomes in what was earlier India’s only Muslim-majority state.

“A new year with the same Jammu and Kashmir Police illegally locking people in their homes and an administration so terrified of normal democratic activity,” Omar Abdullah said on Twitter on Saturday. “Trucks parked outside our gates to scuttle the peaceful [People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration] sit-in protest. Some things never change.”

The National Conference’s vice-president also claimed that the police locked an internal gate connecting the homes of Farooq Abdullah and his sister. “Yet our leaders have the cheek to tell the world that India is the largest democracy, hah!!” he remarked.

Mufti also said that she was placed under detention in her home and that a truck was parked outside, PTI reported.

“GOI [Government of India] trumpets scrapping Article 370 and dismembering Jammu and Kashmir throughout the country but is deeply paranoid and intolerant when people of Jammu and Kashmir want to protest against its disempowerment,” she said. “For the umpteenth time, we’ve been placed under house arrest for trying to organise a peaceful protest.”

Mufti, however, said that the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party workers held a protest despite the detentions.

Tarigami also claimed that the entire leadership of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration had been “put under house arrest”.

“In Kashmir, New Year began on another disappointing note where police resumed their work of scuttling the legitimate voices and squeezing democratic space by cracking down on protest against Delimitation Commission,” he said.

Meanwhile, Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone said that he could not see why the state administration should stop political parties from protesting.

“If you stop political, non violent protests what [are you] incentivising by default?” Lone asked. “[You are] incentivising and facilitating and setting the conditions for a violent form of protest.”