A day after Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik hit out at Rahul Gandhi for his remarks on Kashmir and offered to send an aircraft for him to visit the Valley and see the ground situation, the senior Congress leader accepted his invitation and asked him to ensure that he and a delegation of Opposition leaders are given the “freedom to travel and meet the people”.
“Dear Governor Malik, A delegation of opposition leaders & I will take you up on your gracious invitation to visit J&K and Ladakh. We won’t need an aircraft but please ensure us the freedom to travel & meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there,” Rahul tweeted. Hours later, Malik’s office accused Rahul of “politicising the matter”.
The Congress, meanwhile, asked the government to convene an all-party meeting. “It is high time an all-party meeting is held and the Prime Minister and Home Minister take the leaders of the national parties into full confidence,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said. “No claim by the government, governor or the administration or police officials in the absence of lifting of the clampdown, the news blackout, non-restoration of the communication network, freeing the detained leaders will convince the citizens of India,” he said.
“Since the government has imposed restrictions in the first place and taken this one-sided decision, we urge the government to initiate a political dialogue and take leaders of all Opposition parties into confidence,” he added.
On Saturday, Rahul had said there were reports of violence and people dying in Jammu and Kashmir. This prompted Malik’s remarks offering to send an aircraft. Responding to Rahul’s tweet on Tuesday, Malik’s office accused Rahul of “politicising the matter by seeking to bring a delegation of Opposition leaders to create further unrest and problems for the common people”.
“He has put forth many conditions for visiting J&K, including meeting mainstream leaders under detention,” a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said. “As Hon’ble Governor had never invited him with so many preconditions, he has referred the case to the local police and administration to examine the request further.”
Regarding Rahul’s allegation about unrest, the spokesperson said, “Rahul Gandhi was responding to fake news possibly spread from across the border about the situation in Kashmir, which is peaceful with negligible incidents.”
Meanwhile, Sharma hit out at Malik, arguing that his statement on offering an aircraft was patronising. Rahul, he said, had not sought the state administration’s hospitality. “Nor does he wish to go there as a guest. But as a political leader… to exercise his right, he has spoken about the rights of other leaders of Opposition parties to visit the state,” he said.
He said the government has been complaining about misinformation and rumours. The best answer, he said, is to “let an all-party delegation go, let the media be given the freedom to accompany the delegation to meet the people and tell the world that what is being said is not true…”
CPI general secretary D Raja, meanwhile, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah to help Kashmiri students in distress. —With inputs from ARUN SHARMA in JAMMU