Er Rashid: J&K’s Aam Aadmi is Now A Forgotten Hero 

Er Rashid

Once a popular leader, Er. Rashid has almost disappeared from news, particularly from mainstream media. Rashid comes from Langate area of Kupwara, a border district in Kashmir valley . Rashid was arrested in 2019 at the time of repeal of Article 370 by NIA in a terror funding case for which he had been questioned in 2017 also. When Rashid was summoned, his family was unaware about his arrest and got to know about this later.

His family is  facing hard times. They didn’t receive pension benefits until last month, when the J & K High court directed the government to release his pension to the family. Besides financial strain, there is emotional and psychological stress as well because the family rarely get a chance to speak and meet with him. They seek his  shift to jail in J&K so that they can meet him frequently.

In 2020, Kashmir Observer reported Rashid’s son asking, ‘How will I face those who took an oath with my father that they will not pelt stones and seek peaceful means to address the issues?’ He informed that after 2010 unrest, more than 3000 youths took oath of not pelting stones in leadership of his father before interlocutors appointed by the then Govt. of India.

Rashid’s political journey as J&K’s Aam Aadmi 

Rashid made his own path without any political back up, after leaving his job of construction engineer in 2008 and fought election as an independent candidate. He was elected and remained MLA from January 2009 to December 2014 and then from January 2014 to November 2018.

Tanveer Hussain Khan, a socio-political activist from J&K who has worked with Rashid, believes that his simplicity of thoughts and lifestyle have made him popular. He remembers how Rashid wore traditional cloth, pheran, traveled in an auto rickshaw or small car, roamed without heavy security and kept himself low profile like a common man. He believed in door to door campaigns and reached to every house not only during elections but all the time.

In 2013, Rashid formed his own party and named it Jammu and Kashmir Awami Ittehad Party, with the slogan of Progress, Prestige and Protection. Tanveer was one of the founding members of the party and claims that it was more like a grouping of people under leadership of Rashid where he encouraged them to keep working for people’s issues and for ‘behtari’ of Kashmiri society. People in Kashmir looked at him as an alternative to established regional political parties and compared him with ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ leader Kejriwal due to his alternative politics and simplicity.

In 2019, Rashid also fought parliamentary elections from Baramulla constituency. Though he could not get victory, he fetched more than a whopping one lakh votes, a record for him  he was only 827 votes behind People conference’s Sajjad Lone and only 31,192 votes behind winner NC candidate Akbar Lone.

This political journey of a man who rose to become a popular leader of J&K from a small area makes Rashid a tall leader.

A people’s leader- From Local issues to controversial issues, From resisting against govt. for Human Rights Violations to advocating peaceful and democratic ways of protests 

He led and participated in many protests including a few unique ones. For instance in protest against Shopian Killing he brought out cows, dogs, goats in protest with a banner that read ‘Kashmiri people live a less secure life in Kashmir than a street dog in kashmir’.

Rashid remained present at all places for people. Be it in protest march at secretariat in J&K for revoking termination of employees in J&K or at protest at J&K House in New Delhi In 2016 where he was detained by Delhi police. For raising voice, he even jumped in the assembly hall and was marshaled out a few times. His adversaries even mocked him saying draamebaaz and joker.

Tanveer remembers once Rashid sat in protest in Srinagar when a few horses of the shepherd community were confiscated by administration.  When few people asked him why he was protesting for such a “trivial issue”, Rashid replied that this is about the livelihood of a few families as their horses are their livelihood and for him, confiscating someone’s livelihood is not right.  Later, horses were released.

During a public meeting in Poonch in 2018, Rashid put sessions open for question and answers and interacted with participants from civil soceity for more than three hours. During this, he also expressed sympathies with families of soldiers who lost lives in the Sopore blast. He also appealed to India and Pakistan to learn lessons from every killing on both sides of LoC and that peace should be the way forward.

When beef became a controversial issue, Er. Rashid organized a beef party to oppose this and was even assaulted by BJP members. In next year, when he was in Delhi in Press Club of India, he was attacked by some people who threw black ink upon his face against his critical comments on lynching of Kashmiri truck driver. This truck driver was lynched allegedly for cow slaughter and beef consumption, though later Police found that cows had died due to food poisoning. After the black ink attack, Rashid said ‘People talk of Talibanisation of Pakistan, look what is happening in India’.

On the issues of human rights, Rashid has always been vocal. He raised voice on many issues related to politics and development. His art of politics always remained people friendly. On one hand, he protested against the government over human rights violations and on the other side, he also protested with the government for bringing AIIMS to Srinagar and spent nights on road in extremely cold winters of Kashmir for people’s issues.

Now, Sheikh Abdul Rashid is behind bars in Tihar jail as he was arrested by NIA in 2019 in the case of terror funding. No one knows if and when he would come out. His fate is linked with the fate of many others known and unknown from Kashmir who are behind bars. Now, after more than two years, It is still not sure whether the government has any scope of reconciliation and to release these people from jails.

Rashid remained a firebrand leader with his vocal approach where he advocated rights and spoke without fear. But what is sure is that he advocated democratic path of raising dissent and avoided violence, he believed in constitution and democratic values and he didn’t support militancy and militarisation. People believe that his return may bring some happiness in J&K and his family is waiting for him.

Ravi Nitesh is a Freelance Writer and tweets @ravinitesh

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