Prominent socio-political activists organised a press conference at the Press Club of India, New Delhi on Saturday and briefed the media about their experience after their failed attempt to visit Jammu and Kashmir. — Photo: Caravan Daily 

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Prominent and globally recognised socio-political activists including Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Prafulla Samantara on Saturday came down heavily on the Central government for detaining them at Srinagar airport and forcibly sending back to Delhi.

The activists had planned to meet the people in Kashmir as part of a delegation to assess the ground situation there.

The activists said the move belies the government’s claim of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under strict clampdown since August 5 after the government stripped the state of its special status.

The five-member delegation of the National Alliance of People’s Movements comprising Prafulla Samantara of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Faisal Khan of Khudai Khidmatgar, Sandeep Pandey of Socialist Party, Mohammad Javed Malik of Khudai Khidmatgar, and Musthafa Mohamed of Khudai Khidmatgar were detained at the Srinagar airport by district administration of Budgam in Kashmir while they were on their way to the locked down Kashmir Valley, in the morning of October 4 before sending them back to Delhi.

Briefing to the media, at the Press Club of India (PCI) here, about their experience, Sandeep Pandey said the purpose of their visit was to meet “our brothers and sisters in Kashmir” who are locked up since August 5. Refuting Budgam’s district administration’s charges against the delegation, he denied that they were planning to organise protest or hold any meeting during the two-day visit they had planned. He slammed the claim they made that the delegation had purportedly posed a threat to law and in an order in the district.

We were merely planning to meet some common people in the Kashmir Valley to find out what they were going through under the draconian restrictions imposed on them, Pandey added.

Sandeep Pandey further said, “The action of Jammu and Kashmir administration has exposed Prime Minister Modi and the BJP-led Central government’s claim of normalcy in the state.”

If the situation in the state is indeed normal, why would the government maintain the clampdown two months after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and bifurcation of the state into Union territories. There would otherwise not have arisen the need to prevent groups like NAPM from visiting J&K, reasoned the delegation members.

Another member of the delegation, Faisal Khan, felt the government was desperately trying to open the educational institutions in Kashmir, but parents find it difficult to send their wards to schools in the wake of uncertainty over transportation while  some schools have been turned into camps of paramilitary forces.

Countering the government’s claim that there was no curfew, he said the fact is that with Section 144 of CrPC in force people are not free to move about freely and even the Kashmiri officers of J&K government are subject to frisking and security checks by Central security forces.

Speaking on the occasion, Prafulla Samantara observed that most of the social and political activists, who could mobilise people against the  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. He claimed that most of the arrests are illegally, effected without any written order of any authority.

He said after the curfew-like situation ends, there would arise the need for an inquiry into possible casualties occurred during this clampdown. Right now, all news of protests and the reaction of security forces are totally blanked out, he added.

The delegation pooh-poohed the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that the revocation of Article 370 would bring development to the state saying the stark reality is that even the existing companies in the state are packing up to leave as they find the atmosphere not conducive for business.

Urging the government to trust the people and remove army and paramilitary personnel from internal areas of J&K, the delegation said it had done a potential damage to the state by discrediting the pro-India political parties and leaders.

They concluded the briefing calling for voices of sanity to prevail over the dictatorial tendencies of the incumbent government reflected in its unscrupulous handling of the Kashmir issue alienating the people.