Weeks after the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370, a group of opposition parties led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) organised a protest in New Delhi, demanding immediate release of political leaders from detention, restoration of normalcy and resumption of telecom services in the Valley.
The protest at Jantar Mantar, organised by the DMK, was attended by Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, SP leader Ramgopal Yadav, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav, RJD’s Manoj Jha and TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi.
The Centre has imposed a clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, putting under house arrest top political leaders including former chief ministers—the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti— besides an IAS topper, seven former state ministers, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Srinagar, and a number of legislators. Those detained also include lawyers, businessmen, professors, members of the J&K Bar Association and civil society.
While Yechury called the revocation of J&K’s special status as a “direct assault on democracy”, SP’s Yadav asked, “If normalcy is there, then why have people been put in house arrest?”
Weighing in on the issue, D Raja stressed that while meetings in Tamil Nadu were held against the move, it became paramount to take the appeal to the capital of the country. “Delhi is where the Centre is. I feel it is the opportune time to take a call on this issue. There has been no show of democracy even as the government talks about restoring democracy. The people of Kashmir and their will needs to be respected,” Raja told indianexpress.com.
“Jawaharlal Nehru while understanding the sentiments of the people of J&K made sure that they had a separate constitution. But even that has been undone by the Modi Government. For this, the government acted arbitrarily without consulting the people of Kashmir and the Opposition. This is a big murder of democracy by Modi and Amit Shah,” P Gopalasamy, AICC member who came from Tiruppur for the protest, told indianexpress.com.
Paschima, a 58-year-old retired employee who originally comes from Dharmapuri district and is settled in New Delhi, read about the protest in the newspaper and felt it was necessary to come and attend it. “It was the first time since the revocation that people have gathered in such large numbers. I feel it is important to raise this voice and free the leaders because they are also humans,” she said.
Holding a placard that read ‘Release political prisoners of J&K, Restore democratic rights of people of J&K’, advocate Poonam Kaushik, general secretary of Pragatisheel Mahila Sanghathan, Delhi asked, “If there is no development in J&K, is there any development in rest of India? There are issues like privatisation of education, farmers are distressed and committing suicide,” said Kaushik and asked: “Why is Modi and the government hell bent on selling our country to powerful groups like Adani and Ambani?”
For 22-year-old Teach for India fellow Smriti Gupta, the Kashmir issue is much beyond right and wrong. “I am extremely saddened by the events that have happened. I am in no position to comment if it’s good or bad but the way it was carried out, it is tantamount to absolute darkness, taking away their rights without due consultation,” she said.