Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Shehla Rashid on Wednesday announced her decision to quit electoral politics in Kashmir, claiming that the upcoming local elections were a “sham exercise” being held to “install puppet leaders” in the state.

Rashid is a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement, which was founded by Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal earlier this year. She said the announcement of the Block Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir had compelled her to take this decision to quit the “electoral mainstream”.

“Even as the lockdown on millions of citizens continues for over two months now, even as the Indian government continues to abduct children in Kashmir, and even as people are deprived of the means to call an ambulance and other emergency services, the Centre is soon going to hold elections to the Block Development Councils, in an attempt to showcase ‘normalcy’ to the outside world,” she wrote.

Rashid said she “cannot be party to the exercise of legitimising the brutal suppression of my people”. “If being in the mainstream means compromising on the basic interests of your people, then one cannot be part of such a mainstream!” Rashid wrote on social media. “If the state really wants the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to join the mainstream, it first needs to demonstrate that it is capable of delivering justice.”

Rashid said she would continue to be an activist and “raise my voice against injustice on all fronts that do not require a compromise”. She said she would also continue to “put my energies behind the Supreme Court petition seeking the restoration of the special status of the state, and the reversal of bifurcation of the state”.

Rashid said anyone who opposed the Centre’s decisions faced the threat of being charged under the Public Safety Act, which allows for detention for long periods without trial. She said it was clear that participation in any political activity in Kashmir requires a compromise.

“The Centre’s recent actions have shown that, when it comes to J&K, it doesn’t even respect its own laws, forget international law,” she said. “The Centre also gets away with it because the institutions play along.”

She mentioned the sedition case filed against her last month for allegedly tweeting false information about the Indian Army, and said that “won’t deter me from speaking the truth”.

India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5, imposed a security lockdown, and detained several Kashmiri politicians. The government also severed communication networks. Though the government claims the situation in the state is almost back to normal, the restrictions continue in many parts of the Kashmir Valley.

Earlier in the day, the Congress announced that it will boycott the local council elections in Jammu and Kashmir because of the “indifferent attitude” of the state administration.

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