Sent back from Srinagar airport, Oppn delegation question govt's 'claim of normalcy'

SRINAGAR: An opposition party delegation, led by former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, was on Saturday stopped at the Srinagar airport and sent back to Delhi, soon after they landed here.

rchopra@tribunemail.com

Srinagar, August 24

An opposition party delegation, led by former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, was on Saturday stopped at the Srinagar airport and sent back to Delhi, soon after they landed here.

The development came a day after the Jammu and Kashmir government issued a statement asking political leaders not to visit the Valley as it would disturb the gradual restoration of peace and normal life.

The leaders from nine political parties, who had flown to Srinagar this afternoon but returned within hours, lashed out at the government, questioning its claim of "normalcy" in the Valley.

"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.

He was accompanied by leaders of CPI(M), CPI, DMK, NCP, JD(S), RJD, LJD and the TMC.

"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 don't have to go as a group," he said.

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 Jammu and Kashmir administration had on Friday night said that the visit by politicians would be a violation of restrictions that have been imposed in many areas of the Valley.

Asked about the administration's decision to not allow opposition leaders to visit the Valley, J-K Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal told reporters Saturday evening that  the priority is to maintain security and law and order at a time when the threat of cross-border terrorism continues to exist.

"They had been requested to not visit the Valley," he said.

CPI general secretary D Raja who was part of the delegation said that the fact that they were denied entry into Srinagar showed that the government was "lying" about the "normalcy" in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We were asked to go back after we were shown an order. We had gone there on the invite of the governor and despite that we were asked to return. Where is the normalcy that the government promised?" asked Raja.

'Objection' 

The delegation later signed a statement objecting to being sent back from the airport.

The statement was signed by Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, KC Vengugopal, Anand Sharma, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India’s D Raja, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazagham’s Tiruchi Siva, Trinamool Congress’s Dinesh Trivedi, National Congress Party’s Majeed Memom, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha and Janata Dal (Secular)’s D Kupendra Reddy.  It read: “The objections of the delegation’s movement outside Srinagar Airport and the apprehensions expressed in the order are baseless. They are tantamount to allegations against the purpose of the visit”.

“We are here at the public invitation of the honourable Governor who asked us to visit and see for ourselves the peace and normalcy that prevails. We are responsible political leaders and elected representatives and our intentions are entirely peaceful and humanitarian,” the representation reads.

“We record our strong objection to the basis of our detention, which prima facie is undemocratic and unconstitutional. This denial of our movement in Srinagar also violates our fundamental rights,” it says.

Here’s the full statement.

The objections of the delegation’s movement outside Srinagar Airport and the apprehensions expressed in the order are baseless. They are tantamount to allegations against the purpose of the visit.

We are here at the public invitation of the honourable Governor who asked us to visit and see for ourselves the peace and normalcy that prevails. 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 & Kashmir and Ladakh as well as to expedite the process of return to normalcy.       

The tone and tenor of the order read out attributes to us motives which are baseless and lack substance.

We record our strong objection to the basis of our detention, which prima facie is undemocratic and unconstitutional. This denial of our movement in Srinagar also violates our fundamental rights.

We request this representation to be forwarded to the Governor.”   

— Agencies 

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