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Mehbooba Mufti doesn’t meet PDP panel: Kashmir bigger than party issues

Naveed Iqbal
Mehbooba, along with a majority of the party's leadership, has been under detention since August 5, when the Centre moved to scrap J&K's special status, and has not met any party members since.

Underscoring that the situation in Kashmir is bigger than party issues, People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti refused to meet a delegation of her party members. A day after Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik granted the PDP permission to meet its chief, the party on Monday deferred the meeting with her until next week.

Mehbooba, along with a majority of the party's leadership, has been under detention since August 5, when the Centre moved to scrap J&K's special status, and has not met any party members since.

The party stated that the delegation took the decision to defer its meeting with Mehbooba after a meeting late on Sunday, owing to the unavailability of some members from Jammu for an 11 am appointment at Srinagar.

Party sources, however, told The Indian Express that Mehbooba "is in distress" and had refused to meet the delegation stating that "the situation in Kashmir is bigger than any party matter at the moment and that she does not wish to become an international prop". She has only met with her family at the tourist hut at Chashmashahi where she is being detained.

On Twitter, her official account said: "No meeting between Miss Mufti & PDP Jammu leaders in Srinagar tomorrow as reported by media." She also sought to draw a comparison with J&K and Mumbai's Aarey colony after the Supreme Court Monday restrained authorities from cutting any more trees.

"Aarey trees > Kashmiri lives," read one tweet from Mehbooba's account, which is operated by her daughter Iltija. Another said: "Glad that activists were able to stop felling of trees at Aarey. One wonders why Kashmiris have been deprived of the very same right to free speech & expression. GOI claims they are now at par with other Indians but truth is they've been stripped of even fundamental rights."

PDP's Political Affairs Committee (PAC) member Ved Mahajan said, "We had faxed a request to the governor seeking permission to meet the party chief. We received approval through the Deputy Commissioner's office at about 3 pm on Sunday for an 18 member delegation to visit Mehbooba ji at 11 am at Srinagar."

He said the party's Jammu wing communicated the development to the members of the delegation "but some of them had to come from Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi and they said they would not be able to reach the airport for a 9 am flight. So we held a meeting at 11 pm and decided to postpone the meeting. We will seek the government's permission again in the next week".

Meanwhile, a National Conference delegation led by Devender Singh Rana met with NC president and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah at his house and vice-president Omar Abdullah at Hari Niwas where he is being held.

Rana on Thursday asked Malik to allow an NC delegation to meet the party's president and vice president so they could decide the next political steps.

Emerging from the meeting, NC leaders said Farooq and Omar Abdullah were "pained and anguished about the recent developments" and ruled out participation in the coming local body polls until they were released.