Hundreds of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers gathered yesterday (Thursday, 14 March) at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Srinagar to take part in the BJP’s first of its kind party convention in the Kashmir Valley, reports Firstpost. The arrival of media persons, however, led to many attendees hiding their faces from camera so as not to be identified, presumably in fear from retaliation for supporting the party.
The meet was addressed by BJP national vice-president and Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in charge Avinash Raj Khanna, who was accompanied on the stage by the party’s state general secretary Ashok Kaul.
Although the BJP is a major political force in the Jammu region, its presence in the Kashmir Valley is much thinner, as the region suffers from violent separatism which is at odds with the party’s nationalist image.
However, Khanna in his speech expressed optimism about the party’s direction in the valley, stating, “BJP is slowly strengthening its roots here in the valley, earlier on we had only three district presidents but now our presence has expanded to all ten districts. Even though we may not have won any seats, but we received six thousand votes in the assembly elections and 50,000 votes in the Lok Sabha elections. Today our membership (in Kashmir) has crossed two lakh people. Every day the BJP’s graph moves on an upward trajectory,” as quoted by Zee News.
When photojournalists arrived on the scene to cover the event, many local BJP workers put down their faces into their pherans, a traditional Kashmiri cloak used mainly in the winters. Other attendees covered their faces by using party leaflets and some of them even left the venue.
Explaining the social taboo of supporting the BJP in the valley, one of the attendees, Manzoor, stated, "If these pictures appear on social media, we will face a social boycott." He added that in the atmosphere of anger against the BJP in the valley, the workers did not want to put their lives at risk.
The photos of party supporters irked Twitterati who said that the fear of terrorists was so high that people weren’t able to openly pledge support to a national party. Others praised the attendees that despite facing threats from radicals, they still held on to their political beliefs.
Others rally-attendees also displayed strong support for the party. Abdul Dar said that BJP has worked for the poor in the state and has taken care of people from all sections of society.
The present BJP leaders made ‘peace’ the centre-piece of Kashmir’s development, saying that where there would be peace, the development will follow. “We want that Kashmir should develop just like the rest of the country is developing,” they said, adding that the ‘anti-Muslim’ tag on BJP is completely false as the party’s slogan itself is ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’.