New Delhi: Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury was detained at Srinagar airport on Friday afternoon. Reports said he was “being sent back to Delhi.”
Earlier in the day, Yechury had tweeted a letter he had written on paper bearing the party letterhead, to Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik, notifying him that he and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja would be taking the 9.55 am IndiGo flight to Srinagar to visit CPI(M) leader Yusuf Tarigami. Tarigami, an MLA in the “dissolved J&K assembly” was not well, Yechury had written.
Com D Raja and I are on our way to Srinagar on the 9.55 am Indigo flight to meet Com Yousuf Tarigami and our other comrades in Jammu & Kashmir pic.twitter.com/axRKZkLbV6
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) August 9, 2019
Amidst rumours, his party confirmed at around noon on Twitter that Yechury had indeed been detained upon arrival, issuing a strong rebuke of what they called was an “illegal detention.” In a statement issued by the CPI(M) politburo, the party hit out at the government over the detention, saying it was an “anti-democratic” act, which showed the ruling BJP’s “authoritarian face”.
.@SitaramYechury has being detained at Srinagar Airport and not allowed to move anywhere. This despite the fact that he had informed the administration about his visit to meet CPIM MLA MY Tarigami who is not well & other party workers.
We strongly protest this illegal detention.
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) August 9, 2019
We condemn the detention of #SitaramYechury & D Raja at the Srinagar airport. They had gone to visit CPI(M) MLA Md Tarigami who is under house arrest & not keeping good health.
We call upon the people to protest this anti-democratic act of the BJP govt.
— Md Salim (@salimdotcomrade) August 9, 2019
The news agency ANI, however, said Yechury had been “stopped.”
“They showed us a legal order which did not allow any entry into Srinagar. It stated that even escorted movement int the city was not permitted due to security reasons. We are still trying to negotiate with them,” Yechury told PTI over phone.
In spite of the near blackout of communications in Jammu and Kashmir since Monday, when the Centre announced its decision to take away the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories, reports have come in of an unrelenting crackdown on opposition leaders and protesters.
On Thursday, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad too was stopped at the Srinagar airport. Before boarding the flight, Azad had severely criticised National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s much publicised photographs of sharing meals on the road with Kashmiris. “Paise dekar aap kisiko bhi saath le sakte ho (anyone can be bought),” he was quoted by NDTV as having said.
Officials of the region have themselves said that more than 500 important political workers and leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been detained since Monday.
Most have been lodged in makeshift detention centres in Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar and other such centres in Baramulla and Gurez. Abdullah and Mufti have been detained at Hari Niwas on Gupkar Road.
Srinagar Lok Sabha MP and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah too alleged that he had been put under house arrest, a claim refuted by Union home minister Amit Shah.
Even while the government seeks to establish the idea that calm has been returning to the Valley — Modi himself said as much in his Thursday speech — unconfirmed reports of deaths have been flitting in. A 17-year-old boy was reported to have died after being cornered by paramilitary forces during curfew hours.
Security forces have been deployed in massive numbers across the Valley, particularly in Srinagar city and major towns, and barricades have been erected every 100 metres, reported PTI. The only people allowed to pass are those with medical emergencies. All telephone and internet connections have also been snapped in the Valley and only three news channels, including state-run Doordarshan, can be accessed through cable TV networks.