Things are not normal in J&K: Rahul

Kashmir Times. Dated: 8/25/2019 12:01:19 PM

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI, Aug 24: An opposition delegation, headed by Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress, was on Saturday stopped at Srinagar airport from going into the summer capital and sent back by authorities to ‘maintain law and order’ in Kashmir, where life remained affected due to restrictions and strike since Article 370 and Article 35 A were abrogated on August 5 by the Centre.
Official sources told agencies that the 12-member delegation — including Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad (INC), Sharad Pawar (NCP), and Left leaders D Raja and Sitaram Yechury — were stopped immediately after they disembarked from a flight at Srinagar International Airport.
Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Jammu and Kashmir had, on Friday, urged the delegation to defer their visit to the valley to help authorities to maintain law and order.
The opposition delegation comprised members of eight political parties - Congress, CPI(M), CPI, DMK, NCP, JD(S), RJD and the TMC. They had said they were “responding to the invite of the governor of Jammu and Kashmir for visiting the state.”
“The government has invited me. Now that I have come, they are saying you can't come. The government is saying that everything is normal here, so if everything is normal then why are we not allowed to go in. It is surprising,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters at the Srinagar airport.
“We want to go to any area which is peaceful and talk to 10-15 people. If there is Section 144, I am ready to go in individually, we don't have to go as a group,” he said.
Rahul, who was part of the opposition delegation that attempted to visit Jammu and Kashmir this afternoon, later, reaching back at New Delhi, said it was clear that “things are not normal” there.
“Some days ago, I was invited by the Governor to visit Jammu and Kashmir. So I accepted the invitation. The Governor had suggested that everything was normal and that he would send me a plane to visit the state. I told him -- I don't need your plane but I will accept your invitation and I would come to Jammu and Kashmir,” Gandhi said.
“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through and help the situation if we could. But unfortunately we were not allowed to go beyond the airport. The press people with us were mishandled, beaten. It's clear that things are not normal in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, however, said that Gandhi's visit was political in nature.
“I had invited him out of goodwill but he started doing politics. It (their visit) was nothing but a political action by these people. Parties should keep in mind the national interest at these times,” news agency ANI quoted Malik as saying.
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday night had issued a statement asking political leaders not to visit the Valley as it would disturb the gradual restoration of peace and normal life.
The CPI(M) said that the delegation had planned to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir valley.
“The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents. Denying entry is day light robbery of rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” the CPI(M) said in a statement.
The Jammu and Kashmir Congress criticised the government for turning back the delegation.
Congress state president GA Mir and other party leaders said the government action belies its "repeated claims" that the situation in the valley has largely “normalized.”
“Congress criticises the action of the government to disallow opposition delegation to visit Kashmir in view of its repeated claims that the situation in the valley has normalised to the extent that all government and other institutions are working normally and there is peace in most parts of the state,” a statement issued by J&K Pradesh Congress Committee said.
This was the fourth attempt by the opposition to reach out to the people of the state in view of the situation that emerged following the decision to scrap J&K's special status and divide it into two union territories, the party said.
On the contrary, the party said that when the Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre and an unrest had erupted in the state, the government had itself arranged an all-party delegation visit to the state in which the BJP was included.
Asked about the administration's decision to not allow opposition leaders to visit the Valley, J&K Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal said that the priority was to maintain security and law and order at a time when the threat of cross-border terrorism continued to exist.
“They had been requested to not visit the Valley,” he said.
The opposition delegation, in a letter to the District Magistrate Budgam, termed as baseless the objections to the delegation's movement outside Srinagar airport and the apprehensions expressed in his order.
“We are here at the public invitation of the honourable Governor who asked us to visit and see for ourselves the peace and normalcy that prevails. We are responsible political leaders and elected representatives and our intentions are entirely peaceful and humanitarian,” the letter signed by the delegation members said.
CPI general secretary D Raja who was part of the delegation said that the fact that they were denied entry into Srinagar showed that the government was “lying” about the “normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We were asked to go back after we were shown an order. We had gone there on the invite of the governor and despite that we were asked to return. Where is the normalcy that the government promised?” asked Raja.
The letter stated that the “detention” of the leaders was “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” and denial of movement in Srinagar amounted to “violation of fundamental rights.”
The leaders included Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and KC Venugopal, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury , Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Sharad Yadav (LJD), Dinesh Trivedi (TMC), D Raja (CPI), Majeed Menon (NCP), Manoj Jha (RJD) and D Kupendra Reddy JD(S).
Azad, talking to reporters said, “We weren't allowed to go to the city, but the situation in J&K is terrifying. The stories we heard from the passengers of Kashmir present in our flight, would bring tears even to a stone.”
He further alleged that media personnel who accompanied the delegation were "mishandled" and "beaten up".
Later, the Congress party's Twitter handle wrote, "The govt is saying everything is okay here & everything is normal. If everything is normal why are we not allowed out?: Shri @RahulGandhi Was it not Governor Satya Pal Malik that invited Mr. Gandhi to come to J&K and assess the situation for himself?"



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