New Delhi: In a show of solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, leaders of almost all prominent non-National Democratic Alliance parties came together at Jantar Mantar on Thursday. The Opposition demanded that the Centre immediately release all political leaders under detention or arrest in the state. They also called for restoring normalcy and communication lines in the region, along with unfettered access to the media.
The demonstration was arranged by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader M.K. Stalin and was addressed by leaders of nearly a dozen parties, who were united in criticising the stealth with which the Centre abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two Union Territories.
Addressing the meeting, former J&K chief minister and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said what has happened to the J&K was not only “totally unconstitutional” but also “beyond expectation” and difficult to explain.
‘People in the dark’
“I am sure 95% of India does not know what the issue is about. And yet Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are celebrating it across the country. We are no more living in a democracy,” said Azad, adding that most people lauding the move on social media did not even know what it was about.
“They just said what Modi has done to Kashmir must be right. But this is not what people of this country want. It is what only one party wants.”
Azad also highlighted that the procedure of consulting with other political parties was completely bypassed by the Narendra Modi government when it came to the decision.
He noted how media was being muzzled and the fact that there was very little criticism of the move. “When I was Information and Broadcasting minister, we would be scared of telling even our own radio or television people to report events in a certain way. But today even block level officers of BJP dictate terms – there is complete dictatorship,” he said.
‘Why arrest CMs?’
Referring to the continued detention of former J&K chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti for over two weeks now, Azad said it was particularly unfair as, “They have worked for the unity and integrity of India”.
Azad had tried to enter the state twice but was stopped at the airport. “They say the situation is normal in Jammu. But why did they then prevent me from entering? Obviously, they are hiding something big,” he charged.
Demanding that the leaders be released and communication lines restored, Azad also said that merely making landlines functional was not enough as most people now only have access to mobile phones. He also questioned why Governor Satya Pal Mallik withdrew his offer to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to visit the state after the latter had accepted it. Azad urged the government to allow an all-party delegation to visit the state and see the ground reality for themselves.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the developments in J&K a “direct assault India’s democracy, secularism and federalism”. He also called it a “betrayal by the Narendra Modi government of the people of Kashmir.” Yechury recalled that just three years ago he and other opposition leaders had accompanied then Union home minister Rajnath Singh to the state as part of confidence building measures.
“But while the Centre had then promised to restore the confidence of the people, stop use of pellet guns and start a political dialogue with all stakeholders, it did not keep any of the promises.”
Yechury added that the state was now witnessing the “largest concentration of armed forces anywhere” and that this amounted to “the manipulation of the Constitution of India”.
The Left leader said while former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had spoken of using “Kashmiriyat, jamhooriyat and insaniyat” to arrive at a solution, Vajpayee’s party and its dispensation has attacked the very essence of Kashmiriyat, ripped apart the population and engaged in “katle aam” (mass killing) of humanity.
Another senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said India could not be united through use of force but required upholding of democratic principles. She asked why her party MLA Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, who had lost six members of his family to terrorism, was detained along with other leaders. “Unity does not happen like this, Mr Modi, Mr Shah,” she said.
Karat also pooh-poohed the Centre’s claim of normalcy in large parts of the state. “When women cannot get emergency medical aid, when children cannot go to school because gun-wielding men roam the streets, then how can you speak of normality?” she asked.
‘BJP pushing RSS agenda of Hindu rashtra’
Communist Party of India general secretary D. Raja said the abrogation of Article 370 was a move aimed at “debasing and undermining the federal principles of our country”. He charged that BJP-RSS were “misrepresenting the situation” and claimed BJP was pushing the RSS agenda of establishing Hindu ‘rashtra’ by demolishing everything democratic that was created since Independence.
On BJP’s argument that Article 370 had been “temporary”, Raja said the need of the hour was to discuss how its efficacy had been diminished through amendments under successive governments.
Raja accused the Modi government of making a bilateral issue trilateral as US president Donald Trump is now thought to be mediating in it. “Where are we heading?” he asked.
Ram Gopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party asked if the arrest of three former CMs of J&K meant that the government now believed them to be “terrorists or anti-national or anti-social elements”. “It is strange that till yesterday BJP was allying with them and now it has arrested them,” he added.
On how and why DMK chose to organise the protest, its leader in Lok Sabha, A. Raja said, “Ever since we came into existence, we have proved that we are not a regional party and that we have a national outlook. Our party leader Stalin wanted the Centre to change its outlook towards the J&K issue.”
Leaders adopt resolution
Senior DMK leader and MP T.R. Baalu read out a resolution which was adopted by all the parties. It said, “As a consequence of abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, without following due process of consultations with the people of the state or their elected representatives, an undeclared state of emergency has come into force in the Valley.”
Declaring that all parties participating in the protest stood with the people of the state, the resolution termed as a ‘serious matter’ the “complete communication black-out and the continued detention of former CMs and political leaders”.
It said these actions go against the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India and need to be immediately reversed.