New Delhi, Aug. 13 (PTI): The Congress expressed concern on Tuesday over the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir, while urging the government to initiate a political dialogue and convene an all-party meeting on the issue.
Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said opposition leaders should be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir freely and speak to the people there and demanded immediate release of all leaders placed under house arrest in the Valley so that they could voice their opinion.
“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 told reporters here.
“Opposition leaders should be allowed to visit. It is high time that an all-party meeting is held and the prime minister and the home minister take the leaders of the national parties into full confidence,” Sharma said.
Referring to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik’s offer to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, he said the latter had not sought the hospitality of the state administration as he did not wish to go there as a guest, but wanted to exercise his right as a political leader.
“Any political leader does not need the hospitality of the governor. We demand that the government allow opposition leaders to visit Jammu and Kashmir freely so that the nation and the world can know if all is well there or if there is any cause of concern,” Sharma said.
He added that there were concerns for Jammu and Kashmir — a Union territory after the government decided to withdraw the special status accorded to the state under Article 370 of the Constitution — as there was a complete shutdown, news blackout and the entire communication network was shut.
The Congress leader said his party was urging the government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to lift these curbs, release the detained leaders and allow opposition leaders to visit the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh and meet the people there.
He added that in a country, which was proud of its diversity — multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic — a situation must not be allowed wherein aspersions were cast on the integrity of its constitutional democracy and the government’s commitment and that the administration should respect the fundamental rights of all citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Sharma said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had allied with the National Conference (NC) during the days of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the days of the Narendra Modi government and that was why they recognised these as Indian political parties that abided by the Constitution.
“These leaders must be freed from their detention and only then there would be credibility to the governor’s claim. We all wish peace and normalcy in the state. At the same time, India, as the largest democracy, must give a very clear message that when it comes to the rights of its citizens, the fundamental rights, the present government’s commitment is honest and firm.
“It will be the best that the government takes these steps. It has been nine days since the decision,” he said.Questioning why opposition leaders were stopped at the Srinagar airport and not allowed to proceed any further, Sharma said, “This is not good for India’s image. Every citizen has constitutional rights. While we request citizens to abide by law, the government should respect their constitutional rights.”
He said leaders, including two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir belonging to parties that had been in a coalition with the BJP in the Union government, were detained for almost 11 days now.
The Congress leader said the government was complaining about disinformation and rumours and the best answer to that would be allowing an all-party delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir.