Almost two months after they were ordered indoors as part of the lockdown in J&K following the removal of Article 370, around a dozen top Opposition leaders of the Jammu region were allowed to move out of their homes Wednesday to resume their political activities.
The lifting of restrictions on movements of Jammu Opposition leaders comes ahead of the first Block Development Council elections in the state, scheduled for October 24.
National Conference provincial president and former J&K minister Devender Rana, younger brother of Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the PMO, told The Indian Express: “A senior police officer called me late Tuesday night, saying restrictions imposed on us have been lifted and now we are free to go anywhere and meet party workers.”
Sajjad Kitchloo, another former state minister and ex-NC lawmaker, and Javed Rana, a former MLC, too said restrictions imposed on their movements outside homes have been lifted. “Police personnel outside our residences have been withdrawn,’’ they said.
Jammu leaders told to stay indoors following the Centre’s August 5 decision included Choudhary Lal Singh (Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan), Raman Bhalla (Congress), Firdous Tak (PDP), Surjit Singh Slathia (NC), Abdul Majeed Wani (Congress) and Harsh Dev Singh (Panthers Party).
Although Jammu Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Verma claimed that the administration never detained any Opposition leader following the August 5 announcements, Inspector General of Police (Jammu zone) Mukesh Singh said “some policemen were deployed outside their houses in view of the threat perception.” He did, however, say there were some restrictions on the political activities of these leaders.
In August, Congress chief spokesperson and former legislator Ravinder Sharma was whisked away to Pir Mitha police station from his party headquarters in Jammu when he was about to address a press conference. He was released after furnishing personal surety.
Harsh Dev Singh, who had left for his constituency Ramnagar after the lifting of curbs on his movements, described his “confinement for 58 days without any formal orders from the administration as murder of democracy… we are nationalists, peace-loving people who have always held the Tricolour high”.
Firdous Tak (PDP) called the end of curbs a “face-saving exercise’’ by the administration in view of the approaching BDC elections. “It was on the backfoot after the announcement of the BDC elections amid detention of Opposition leaders. By lifting the curbs on us, they now want to show that no one is detained,’’ he said. “How will this help participation in BDC elections when all the top leaders in Kashmir Valley are still under detention,” he said.
Asked whether the National Conference will be participating in the BDC elections, Rana said: “Let me first move out of the house to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150 birth anniversary and meet party workers.’’
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav Wednesday asked people in the country to embrace people of Kashmir because “for us, every Kashmiri is a member of this country, this family’’.
“Whatsoever steps PM Modi is taking today, do not think that these are meant for the territory of Kashmir. These are being taken to ensure a new dawn in the life of every resident of Kashmir,’’ he said.
He said now that Jammu and Kashmir has completely merged with India post Article 370, it is now like other states of the country and “all shall spend their first leave in Kashmir… Go to Jammu and Kashmir’’.
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