NEW DELHI: The son of one of two men who shot dead former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was elected to India’s parliament on Tuesday, election commission figures showed.

Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa’s father was a member of Gandhi’s security team who, along with an accomplice, shot her dead in her garden in 1984 in retribution for an attack on a Sikh holy shrine earlier that year, conducted to root out Sikh militants sheltering there.

‘Hasten his release’

Another jailed leader, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, a former state legislator in held Kashmir, won a seat in held Kashmir by more than 200,000 votes. He defeated Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the territory.

“I don’t believe his victory will hasten his release from prison nor will the people of North Kashmir get the representation they have a right to,” Abdullah said as he conceded defeat, in a post on social media.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government arrested Rashid — popularly known as Engineer Rashid — on charges of “terror funding” and money laundering in 2019.

That followed New Delhi’s cancellation of the limited autonomy of the occupied territory.

Rashid’s son ran an emotional campaign on his behalf in northern Kashmir’s Kupwara constituency, defeating a candidate seen as close to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He used a pressure cooker as his election symbol, seen as a representation of stifled political conditions in held Kashmir after the 2019 change, when civil liberties were drastically curtailed.

Indian held Kashmir saw a 58.6 per cent turnout at the polls according to the election commission, a 30pc jump from the last vote in 2019 and the highest in 35 years. For the first time since the insurgency began in 1989, no separatist group called for a boycott of the polls.

AJK protest

Meanwhile, scores of people staged a small protest in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, criticised the crackdown in recent years by Modi’s government in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Uzair Ahmad Ghazali, the head of a Kashmiri refugee organisation, told crowds at a rally in Muzaffarabad that Modi’s re-election would bring “more oppression and more restrictions for Kashmiri Muslims”.

“There is a threat to the peace in the region due to the fanaticism of Modi,” Kashmiri lawyer Majid Awan said.

In 2019, the Modi government revoked the limited autonomy of Indian-held Kashmir — a move widely celebrated across India but which led Pakistan to suspend bilateral trade and downgrade diplomatic ties with New Delhi.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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