Top Opposition leaders, led by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, will visit Srinagar on Saturday to “see the ground situation in the state”, where restrictions have been in place since the first week of August.
However, hours after the decision was taken, the J&K administration asked political leaders “to cooperate and not visit Srinagar”.
“At a time when the government is trying to protect the people of Jammu & Kashmir from the threat of cross-border terrorism and attacks by militants and separatists and gradually trying to restore public order by controlling miscreants and mischief mongers, attempts should not be made by senior political leaders to disturb the gradual restoration of normal life,” J&K’s Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) tweeted.
“Political leaders are requested to cooperate and not visit Srinagar as they would be putting other people to inconvenience. They would also be violating restrictions that are still there in many areas. Senior leaders should understand that top priority would be given to maintaining peace, order and preventing loss of human lives.”
The Opposition leaders’ decision — taken on Friday during a meeting at the Parliament office of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad — comes a day after the parties held their first street protest in the capital demanding the release of detained political leaders in J&K, and is an attempt to mount pressure on the government to ease the restrictions.
Rahul, Azad, Anand Sharma and K C Venugopal will represent the Congress in the delegation, which will include CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, LJD’s Sharad Yadav, TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi, NCP’s Majeed Memon, RJD’s Manoj Jha and JDS’ D K Reddy.
Azad, a former chief minister of J&K, has tried to visit the state twice, but was sent back from Srinagar and Jammu airports. Yechury and Raja, too, travelled to Srinagar earlier this month but were sent back from the airport. “The Governor of J&K had invited Rahul Gandhi to come and see the ground situation. Let’s see what happens,” a top Opposition leader told The Indian Express, when it was pointed out that Azad was sent back from the airport twice. “We are not going to foment trouble. We are going in solidarity with the people of Kashmir,” another leader said.
Opposition leaders said the government and J&K administration had been claiming that the situation was near normal, and “if everything is normal, then we don’t expect any difficulty in moving around.”