SRINAGAR - India’s main opposition Congress said on Wednesday it would boycott local elections in Occupied Kashmir, joining two other parties in a setback for BJP government efforts to restart political activity after it revoked the state’s special status two months ago.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced international condemnation for his handling of the situation in Occupied Kashmir, particularly over communication restrictions and the detention of hundreds of people including politicians that accompanied the withdrawal of its autonomy in August.

The Indian government says normalcy is slowly returning to the Muslim-majority territory and was hoping that the elections to sub-district councils set for Oct 24 would help bolster its case that ordinary Kashmiris wanted faster economic development.

But the Congress party state chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said with scores of members detained, an election was pointless. “We have decided to stay away from the polls which should have been deferred taking into consideration the prevailing situation in the state as was demanded by all the opposition political parties”, Mir, who himself was under house arrest till last week, told reporters in Srinagar.

Congress, National Conference, PDP to boycott local elections set for 24th

Authorities detained hundreds of freedom fighters fighting for Kashmir’s secession from India as well as local politicians for fear of large scale protests over the decision to withdraw Kashmir’s decades-old special rights and divide the state into two federal territories.

Many have since been released. Two other regional parties - National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party - whose leaders are still detained, will also stay out of the polls.

“They (the government) want to give the impression that there is normal political activity but there is nothing normal about the situation,” a source with knowledge of the Peoples Democratic Party leadership’s thinking told Reuters.

On Sunday, National Conference leader Hasnain Masoodi said that unless political leaders were released, elections were futile. “As of now there is no question of any democratic process and given the atmosphere that is around, the BDC elections seem irrelevant,” he told reporters in Srinagar, referring to what locally are known as block development councils.

Both parties also boycotted the village-level polls in the Kashmir Valley last year, leading to the election of heads for only around 60% of village councils, according to official data.

INDIAN CLAIM OF EASING

SIEGE REJECTED AS RUBBISH

Vice-Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Young Men’s League Zahid Ashraf has rubbished the Indian claims of easing the siege of Occupied Kashmir, calling it a brazen lie and a petty eyewash to offset the rising wave of criticism across the globe.

According to Kashmir Media Service, Zahid Ashraf in a statement said there was not only a complete lockdown but also total digital and communication blockade of the nine million innocent Kashmiris.

He said this bestial treatment has only added to the anger and hatred that had always been there against the Indian occupation and the world would witness it the moment siege is lifted. Terming the global silence on the continued siege that has entered its 10th week criminal and very unfortunate, he wondered that were the Kashmiris some sub-human species who were not entitled to the most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He warned if the Kashmir sore was allowed to degenerate further, there was every possibility that the region could erupt into a nuclear conflagration, inflicting a human catastrophe.