12 Oppn leaders of 9 parties not allowed to visit Valley

The Opposition leaders at Srinagar Airport on Saturday.
The Opposition leaders at Srinagar Airport on Saturday.

Delegation submits memorandum to DM for Governor
Guv reacts, says no need for Rahul in Kashmir now
Rahul says was ready to go individually if there was Sec 144

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 24: A delegation of 12 Opposition leaders from nine political parties including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had to return to New Delhi this afternoon from Srinagar Airport as it was not allowed to visit Kashmir but submitted a memorandum to the District Magistrate Budgam saying they were in the Valley on public invitation of the Governor and described basis of their detention (at the Airport) as “undemocratic and unconstitutional” with Rahul stating that he was ready to go to meet the people alone if Section 144 was in place. They wanted their memorandum to be handed over to Governor Satya Pal Malik.
“We are here at the public invitation of the 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 and Kashmir and Ladakh as well as to expedite the process of return to normalcy,” the memorandum signed by 12 Opposition leaders including Rahul and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.
The Governor reacted sharply to the visit of Rahul Gandhi to Srinagar.
“There is no need for him (Rahul) now. He was needed when his colleague was speaking in the Parliament. If he wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told a news agency in Srinagar on the visit of Opposition leaders to Srinagar.

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The Governor was apparently referring to the speech of Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, who had made controversial remarks on Kashmir.
Earlier in the day, the delegation of 12 Opposition leaders reached Srinagar from New Delhi. However, they were not allowed by the administration to come out of the Airport. They stayed at the Airport lounge for quite some, submitted a memorandum to the District Magistrate Budgam to be handed over to the Governor and made a brief appearance before the media, which had managed to reach the Airport before being asked to return to New Delhi.
The Opposition leaders were served an order by the administration expressing apprehensions about their movement outside the Srinagar Airport, which the delegation members described as baseless.
“The objections to 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 our visit,” the memorandum submitted by the Opposition leaders said.
It added: “We are here at the public invitation of the 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 memorandum said the tone and tenor of the order read out attributes to our 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 amounts to violation of our fundamental rights,” it added.
The delegation of Opposition leaders comprised Rahul Gandhi, MP, former AICC (I) president, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, Deputy Leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha, KC Venugopal, AICC general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, general secretary CPI (M), Tiruchi Siva, Leader of DMK in Rajya Sabha, Sharad Yadav, former Union Minister and president LJD, Dinesh Trivedi, former Union Minister and leader TMC, D Raja, general secretary CPI, Majeed Memon, MP and leader of NCP, Manoj Jha, MP Rajya Sabha and leader of RJD and D Kupendra Reddy, MP and leader of JD (S).
The delegation leaders wanted to visit Kashmir valley to take stock of the situation there after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions but were not allowed to leave Srinagar airport by the State administration and had to return to the national capital. Yesterday, the State Government had 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 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.
Rahul said they wanted to go to any area which is peaceful and talk to 10-15 people.
“If there is Section144, I am ready to go individually. We don’t have to go as a group,” he said.
Before emplaning for Srinagar from New Delhi, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad said three former Chief Ministers of J&K including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are under house arrest and he has not been allowed to visit either Kashmir or Jammu by the administration earlier.
“This shows the Government has something to hide,” Azad said.
CPI general secretary D Raja, who was part of the delegation, said 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.
A statement issued by 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 leader to meet and address their constituents. Denying entry is day light robbery of rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” the statement said.
“If ‘normalcy’ exists in the Valley as claimed by the government, why is it stopping representatives of political parties from meeting the people?” the CPM statement asked.
It said that the people of the country were watching this “blatant trampling upon of the democratic rights of people and their representatives by a party which seeks to impose a totalitarian regime”
The State administration had last night stated that the visit by politicians would be a violation of restrictions that have been imposed in many areas of the Valley.
On administration’s decision not to allow Opposition leaders to visit the Valley, Principal Secretary and Government’s official spokesman Rohit Kansal said 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 not to visit the Valley,” he said.
The joint delegation of the opposition had flown to Srinagar around noon today to meet the people of Jammu and Kashmir and assess the situation there following imposition of restrictions after the Centre withdrew special status to the State and bifurcated it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.