Activists detained at Srinagar airport say claims of normalcy are hollow

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 10/6/2019 7:55:47 PM

NEW DELHI, Oct 5: A delegation facilitated by National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), including Prafulla Samantara of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha, Faisal Khan of Khudai Khidmatgar, Delhi, Dr. Sandeep Pandey of Socialist Party (India), Mohammad Javed Malik of Khudai Khidmatgar, Delhi and Musthafa Mohamed, Khudai Khidmatgar, Kerala were detained at Srinagar airport on the morning of October 4, 2019 by the District administration of Budgam and then forcibly returned to Delhi in the evening.
Addressing a press conference at Press Club of India here today, the returned activists informed that individual notices in the name of Prafulla Samantara, Faisal Khan and Sandeep Pandey were issued by District Magistrate of Budgam states an apprehension that these activists would organise a protest in Srinagar on the issue of abrogation of Article 370, which could pose a threat to law and order. The notice also said that their entry into Jammu & Kashmir is being restricted till further orders. The administration was also on the look out for senior NAPM activist Arundhati Dhuru, who had no plans to join this delegation, they said.
“As members of the delegation, we would like to strictly clarify that the NAPM delegation had prepared to visit J&K for two days and wasn't planning to organise any protests or hold any meetings. It was merely planning to meet some common people to find out what hardships they were subjected to because of the various restrictions and lockdown imposed on the people of J&K,” they clarified.
They called it an irony that while the union government is claiming and the Prime Minister has declared in several languages from Houston that 'everything is all right,' the ground reality is quite different. “Otherwise, why should the government have to maintain the clampdown even two months after the decision taken to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A as well as division of state of J&K into two parts, downgrading both of them to union territories. There would not have been a need to prevent groups like NAPM from visiting J&K,” they said.
The activists said that the government is desperately trying to open the schools in Kashmir Division but parents find it difficult to send children because of uncertainty related to transportation. They said, “It is also the case that some schools are being used as camps for para-military forces. Most markets are still closed. Some shops open but only during morning 6 am to 9 am hours. Petrol pumps also open for a few hours every day. The fruit growers are finding it difficult to sell their produce to their customary buyers. Even though the government has agreed to buy their produce but the entire trade and market has been disrupted.”
They also rebuffed the claims of the government that there is no curfew imposed but the fact is Section 144 of CrPC has been applied and people are not free to move about freely. “Even the Kashmiri officers of J&K government are subject to frisking and security checks by central security forces. Most social and political activists, who could mobilise people against the central government's twin decisions, have been either sent to jails in different parts of the country or kept under arrest in their houses or some common locations in Srinagar,” they said.
The senior activists dscribed these detentions as illegal, reasoning that they are without any written orders of any authority. When the curfew like situation ends, there is also a need for enquiry into possible casualities during this clampdown. Right now, all news of protests and the reaction of security forces is totally blocked, they added.
Pandey, Samantara and their colleagues also critiqued the claims of resuming the democratic process in the state of J&K by holding the Block Panchayat elections. They pointed out that Panchayat is a state subject under 7th Schedule of Indian Constitution. It is now going to be 14 months since the state is without an elected government. “It is the duty of State government of J&K to hold the Panchayat elections. The central government should facilitate in holding the state assembly elections at the earliest and then also get the decisions taken by it, approved by the state assembly, if it believes what it has done is in the interest of the people of J&K. Only state assembly's endorsement of central government's decision can give it some legitimacy otherwise the manner in which it has been done is outright anti-democratic,” said.
They quizzed that if a similar decision, as has been taken by the government with respect to J&K, was taken in the context of any other state without consulting its people would the people have supported it?
The activists emphasized that the central government has to trust the people of J&K. All communications restrictions have to be lifted. Home Minister is claiming that government's decision will bring development to the state. “The reality is that even the companies which were there are now packing up to leave as they find the atmosphere not conducive to business. Which company would like to invest in a state in which normalcy doesn't prevail? The Indian Railways has claimed that it has suffered a loss of Rs. 2 crores because of the ongoing clampdown,” they reminded.
They said that only an elected government in J&K can bring normalcy. However, central government has done a potential damage by discrediting the state level political parties and their leaders. “Are corruption and dynastic rule only a phenomena in J&K? How does it plan to fill this vacuum? The army and para-military should be removed from internal areas of J&K and entrusted with the task of defending borders and checking infiltration of men and material from across the border. Internal law and order should be handled by the state government with the help of J&K police. The future of the state has to be determined by the state government as a representative of the sentiment of people of J&K. The earlier the government of India understands this the faster the situation will return to normalcy,” they advised.
They said that it is not clear how the government intends to restore democracy in the state without taking people of J&K into confidence. The activists also questioned how long the central government intends to rule J&K through the governor and the armed forces? It is impossible to change people's opinion in government's favour by using force, the reverse is likely to happen, they said.



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