From Jail, PDP’s Waheed Parra Wins DDC Election

by Tasavur Mushtaq

SRINAGAR: While being in jail, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) incarcerated youth president Waheed Parra has won the District Development Council (DDC) polls from Pulwama-1. He polled most of the votes that this territorial segment polled – of the 1950 votes, Parra polled  1323 as his nearest rival, Sajad Raina of Bjp polled 321 votes.

A native of Naira village, Waheed, currently under judicial custody, is lodged in Jammu’s Amphalla jail.

Waheed ur Rehman Parra watching from inside as the cops stand guard at his gate. PDP leaders were prevented from moving out of their homes to attend the party meeting on September 3, 2020. Pic: PDP

he constituency which Waheed triumphed has about 14 villages and over 25,000 voters. Besides Waheed, there were six candidates in the fray including BJP’s Sajad Raina and Apni Party’s Ghulam Hassan Mir. The four other were independent.

Fighting from the prison, the main opponent for Waheed was Sajad Raina. Vice-chairman of the Block Development Council, Raina was elected unopposed as sarpanch in the 2018 panchayat polls. His slogan in this election was “fighting for Vikas (development).”

The Arrest

Active in mainstream politics for the last several years, Waheed was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month, days after he filed his nomination papers for the DDC elections. He, as per the reports was interrogated by the agency in connection with a case related to militancy in Jammu & Kashmir. Waheed was initially called by the NIA to Delhi and after questioning for “alleged involvement with the Hizbul Mujahideen group.” Later he was arrested formally on November 25. Reacting to the developments, Mehbooba led PDP denied the charge and said that Waheed is being “falsely charged” as a method to intimidate PDP and other mainstream J&K parties. She vouched for his innocence, “Waheed has no connection whatsoever with this man,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘This man’, in Mehbooba’s tweet was Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, who was earlier arrested by the NIA after having been caught “transporting two top militants and one over ground worker” on Kashmir highway. According to the NIA, Waheed was allegedly in touch with one of the accused.

The Campaigning

Days after filing his nomination papers, Waheed was arrested, leaving little behind for his personal campaigning. However, sources close to him said instead the family, friends and relatives hit the campaign trail. One of his close aides said that they “tried to carry out the process in his absence”, but was “stalled many times”. Among the main campaigners were his father, Ghulam Ahmad Parra and brother Nadeem Parra.

A family member wishing anonymity alleged that there was “intense pressure” from “several quarters” to halt the campaign and at a certain point, it was “stopped for fear of the reprisal”.  Later the outreach was done “individually” and at times “telephonically.”

Another member said, “Waheed and his work is known to all, we had no difficulty in convincing the people, they know him better than us.” Interestingly, there was no prominent party flag or banner in his area, but just posters on walls with a message for people to be “witnesses to his innocence by voting for him.”

While canvassing for Waheed, former chief minister and PDP’s president Mehbooba Mufti asked people to vote for him and answer “Delhi’s tyranny.” You are all aware that Waheed has always raised his voice against cruelty and he is being punished for that today. I hope your vote will be an answer to Delhi’s tyranny.”

Mehbooba visited his home to show solidarity with the family, and support for his candidature. Besides, his party also launched a social media campaign for his release by releasing videos and pictures showing Waheed’s contribution towards strengthening mainstream politics in J&K. The remarks made by the former home minister and incumbent defence minister, Rajnath Singh about Waheed were also made viral.

As told by the locals, Waheed in his area was a “go-to person” and people remember him as someone who would “always help”. “Without understanding what it means, my only point was to see him successful,” said Ali Muhammad, a local.

The Journey

Joining mainstream as a young man in 2013, Waheed played a significant role in reviving the mainstream politics in south Kashmir. Considered close to Mehbooba, he is one of the main crowd-pullers in the party, particularly youth. He was part of the PDP’s campaign in south Kashmir for at least three elections held after his joining the party.

Born in 1988, Waheed’s political connections go to his grandfather, Abdul Rehman Parra. An activist and Congressman, Rehman was known worker of PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. Trained in the US for investigative journalism, he did his masters in peace and conflict studies at Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora.

Seen as influential in the different circles, he was also a member of “Kashmir Committee” revived in 2011 by Ram Jethmalani. A year after joining his party, he was appointed as youth president. In June 2015, Mufti Sayeed as chief minister engaged him as his “political analyst.” He would also oversee the functioning of the grievance cell formed for the analysis of public grievances and formulation of broader policies. A year later in 2016, he was given the charge of Secretary of the J&K State Sports Council. He would “engage” youth through sports and also invited Rajnath Singh as home minister to be part of the function in Srinagar.

A votary of dialogue and democracy, Waheed, his aides said always “wanted to work for strengthening the idea of India in Kashmir.” However, after the abrogation of special status, he was among the political detainees held for many months. After his release, he was initially put under house detention and later released. He convened a maiden meeting of workers at Srinagar office and talked about the “policies and priorities” of PDP.

In his few video interviews, he reacted to decision as he said “imposed” on Kashmir and castigated the BJP leadership for the “unilateral decision of scrapping the special status.”

Umar Mukhtar contributed from Pulwama.

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