Apprehensions basesless: Opposition leaders cry foul after J&K entry denied

Rahul Gandhi Opposition Leaders Jammu and Kashmir
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the media as party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Left party leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja look on, after opposition leaders' return from Srinagar, at IGI airport in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

An opposition delegation comprising Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sitaram Yechury and others, slammed the government for not allowing them to visit Jammu and Kashmir, saying the apprehensions raised were baseless.

The leaders said they were detained at Srinagar airport on the apprehensions that they would mobilise people, in view of the restrictions were imposed in the state following the abrogation of Article 370 provisions for Jammu and Kashmir.

The trip came a day after Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday night asked the politicians not to visit the state as it would be a violation of restrictions that have been imposed in many areas of the Valley.

In a letter, the leaders, who returned to Delhi after they were sent back from Srinagar, raised strong objection over the “baseless” apprehension and said the denial of their movement amounted to violation of Fundamental Rights.

“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,” the letter said.

Gandhi, who was accompanied by Anand Sharma and KC Venugopal of Congress, said he was invited by Governor Satya Pal Malik to visit Jammu and Kashmir. “I accepted the invitation. We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport. Press people with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that situation in J&K isn’t normal.”

“We want to go to any area which is peaceful and talk to 10-15 people. If there is Section 144, I am ready to go in individually, we dont have to go as a group,” he said.

The Governor however said he was not needed now. “I had invited him (Rahul Gandhi) out of goodwill but he started doing politics. It (opposition leaders’ visit) was nothing but a political action by these people. Parties should keep in mind the national interest at these times,” Malik said.

“There is no need for him now. He was needed when his colleague was speaking in Parliament. If he wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” he said.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said they weren’t allowed to go to the city. “But the situation in J&K is terrifying. The stories we heard from the passengers of Kashmir present in our flight, would bring tears even to a stone.”

Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M), Tiruchi Siva of DMK, Sharad Yadav of LJD, Dinesh Trivedi of Trinamool Congress, D Raja of CPI, Majeed Memon of NCP, Manoj Jha of RJD and D Kupendra Reddy of JD(S) were among the leaders who made the trip.

Earlier Congress questioned as to why the delegation of opposition leaders was sent back if the situation was normal in Jammu and Kashmir as the government claimed.

Restrictions lifted in many areas: Officials

Authorities lifted restrictions from most of Kashmir on Saturday, a day after they had imposed strict curbs on movement of people in the Valley in view of the Friday prayers and the proposed march of separatists to the local United Nations office.

Day-time restrictions have been lifted from 69 police station areas in the Valley, J&K Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal told reporters this evening. Officials said traffic movement increased on Saturday and attendance in offices also improved. However, public transport remained off roads and markets in the Valley were shut for the 20th day.

(With agencies’ inputs)