NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, were detained at Srinagar Airport and sent back to New Delhi on Saturday, when they tried to visit the Kashmir Valley.
The 11-member delegation representing eight parties had planned to visit various parts of Kashmir to get a sense of the situation in the area.
The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions.
As soon as Gandhi and other opposition leaders landed, security forces surrounded them and did not allow them to leave the airport.
There are reports that members of the media were manhandled when they tried to follow the politicians.
“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport,” Gandhi said.
“People with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t normal,” Gandhi told the media after returning from Srinagar.
The Communist Party of India in a statement said: “The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents.”
It added that the plan of the delegation was “to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir Valley.”
Kashmir has been under security lockdown since Aug. 5, the day when the Indian government rescinded Article 370 that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution.
Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satyapal Malik doubted the opposition’s intentions and said that they wanted to “aggravate the situation” through their visit.
“If Rahul Gandhi wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told the media in Srinagar.
The situation remains tense even three weeks after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Schools, colleges and businesses remain shut despite a government’s order to reopen them.
Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world.
Traffic movement has increased on major roads but round the clock vigilance by security personnel continues with paramilitaries manning key strategic points across Srinagar.
“In south Kashmir — be it Pulwama, Shopian or Anantnag — life is at a standstill. People are living in fear because of the random arrests by the security forces,” Manzoor Ul Hassan, a Srinagar-based journalist said.
A government official in Srinagar told Arab News: “We have asked people to start resuming normal life but that is not happening.”