A 12-member delegation of Opposition parties from Delhi led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was sent back from Srinagar airport Saturday. The delegation wanted to visit Kashmir Valley to take stock of the situation after the Centre had scrapped the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir by diluting Article 370 of the Constitution.
Following their detention, the delegation wrote a letter to the Budgam District Magistrate, terming it as ‘prima facie undemocratic and unconstitutional’. “This denial of our movement in Srinagar also amounts to a violation of our fundamental rights,” the letter read. The 12-member delegation, including Rahul and senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, was detained at the airport and not allowed to visit the city earlier today.
The opposition leaders wrote: “We are responsible political leaders and elected representatives and our intentions are entirely peaceful and humanitarian. We are here to express solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as well as to expedite the process of return to normalcy.”
Referring to the Centre’s order asking the delegation to return, the statement further read: “The tone and tenor of the order read out attributes to us motives which are baseless and lack substance.” After the delegation was sent back from Srinagar airport, Rahul Gandhi said it’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is not normal, news agency ANI reported.
“The government has invited me. The governor has said that I am invited. 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,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told reporters at the Srinagar airport.
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 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).
Hours after the political leaders announced their decision to visit the region on Friday, the J&K administration had asked them “to cooperate and not visit Srinagar”.
The leaders made the visit to the Valley to “see the ground situation in the state”, where restrictions have been in place since the first week of August. Restrictions were imposed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre removed its special status under Article 370. There has been a clampdown in Kashmir ever since Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.
Following the imposition of several restrictions and curfew in the region, the Centre’s move came under severe criticism from the Opposition, especially when several leaders in the Valley including Omar Abdullah of National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, were house house-arrested.
Amid the controversy and the criticism that followed, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik had ‘invited’ Rahul Gandhi to Kashmir, saying he would send an aircraft for him. Previously, the Congress leader had lashed out at the J&K administration saying, “People were dying in the state and the situation was not normal as claimed by the government.”
After Gandhi accepted the ‘invitation’, the Governor had accused the Congress leader of politicising the matter and said he had put forth many conditions for visiting the region, including meeting mainstream leaders under detention. To this, Gandhi said that he was ready to visit the state without any conditions.