Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will visit Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Saturday along with eleven other opposition leaders across party lines. This comes weeks after the Centre abrogated Article 370, the special status given to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 13, Rahul had accepted an “invitation” extended by Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik to visit the region, which is currently under an unprecedented security cover. Responding to Malik’s statement wherein he said that he would send an aircraft for the former Congress chief to visit Jammu and Kashmir and see the prevailing situation for himself, Rahul said that instead of the aircraft, he would need “freedom” to travel and meet people.
Taking to microblogging site Twitter, the Gandhi scion shared a report where Malik was quoted as saying that he had invited Rahul to the Valley. The Congress leader tweeted that he would accept the “gracious invitation” and would want to meet common people, political leaders and soldiers deployed.
The parties that will accompany Congress are Trinamool Congress (TMC), CPI-M, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), CPI, DMK, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal (Secular) and Samajwadi Party (SP).
Opposition leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sitaram Yechuri, D Raja, Manoj Jha, Anand Sharma, D Kupendra Reddy, Majeed Memon, KC Venugopal, Tiruchi Siva, Sharad Yadav, and Dinesh Trivedi will be part of the delegation. The leaders will board a Vistara flight from the national capital at 11.50 am.
This will be Azad's third attempt to enter the newly formed Union Territory (UT) as he was detained earlier on two occasions. On August 20, he was detained at the Jammu Airport in Jammu and Kashmir and on August 8, he was detained at the Srinagar Airport.
Reacting on the visit, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has asked the opposition delegation not to visit Srinagar as they would be jeopardizing the convenience of the people. It also added that the senior political leaders should not make attempts to disturb the gradual restoration of normal life. Taking to Twitter, the Department of Information and Public Relations also asked the senior leaders to understand that the priority should be maintaining peace, order and preventing loss of human lives.
"At a time when the government is trying to protect the people of Jammu & Kashmir from the threat of cross border terrorism and attacks by militants and separatists and gradually trying to restore public order by controlling miscreants and mischief mongers, attempts should not be made by senior political leaders to disturb the gradual restoration of normal life. Political leaders are requested to cooperate and not visit Srinagar as they would be putting other people to inconvenience. They would also be violating restrictions that are still there in many areas. Senior leaders should understand that top priority would be given to maintaining peace, order and preventing loss of human lives," tweeted the administration.
On August 6, 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind signed the order scrapping Article 370 and Article 35A from Jammu and Kashmir. In another move, the Centre also reorganised Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories with two Lieutenant Governors. One Union Territory is Ladakh which will have no assembly while the other is Jammu and Kashmir with an assembly.
A few days before the decision, the Centre had beefed up the security measures in the region after reports that Pakistan-backed terror groups may try to inflame passions and foment trouble. Curfew was imposed in the former state while internet services were shut down and telephone lines blocked. Several Kashmiri political leaders were detained and put under house arrest and preventive custody.
The scrapping of Article 370 was announced by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament amid uproar by opposition parties. The decision is in line with what the BJP had promised in its manifesto before the Lok Sabha election 2019.
Shah had made an earnest appeal in Rajya Sabha for politics to be kept on the distant sidelines and for members of the Upper House to come together as one for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Backing the move to revoke Article 370 in the state, he said that it was the core reason why people here had not had either peace or seen development.
with inputs from Pooja Mehta