Security personnel stand guard in a locality in Jammu on Tuesday ahead of Independence Day. (PTI)
New Delhi: Hours after Rahul Gandhi tweeted to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik about his intentions of visiting the Valley, top Union government officials said the decision on whether to allow the Congress leader and other political figures will be taken by the local district administration.
“Dear Governor Malik, a delegation of opposition leaders and I will take you up on your gracious invitation to visit J&K and Ladakh,” Gandhi said in a tweet on Tuesday. “We won’t need an aircraft but please ensure us the freedom to travel and meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there.”
Gandhi’s tweet came a day after Malik criticised him for his remarks about violence in Kashmir, saying he will send the Congress leader an aircraft to visit the vValley and observe the ground situation.
“I have invited Rahul Gandhi to come here. I will send you a plane, to observe (the situation) and then speak up. You are a responsible person and you should not speak like this,” Malik had said.
However, Union government officials indicated that the permission for political leaders to visit Kashmir or meet detained leaders such as Omar Abudllah, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah may not come just yet.
“The administration felt the need to detain (them) under various sections of the law. A few people detained under the Public Safety Act, which is authorised by the state home secretary — there is a committee over it. If the administration has taken a decision, it is keeping in mind local conditions,” said an official.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who landed in Srinagar on Thursday, was barred from entering the erstwhile state and sent back from the airport on Thursday. He later accused the BJP-led central government of having “mercilessly massacred” the state by “dismembering” it into two parts.
The next day, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yecury and CPI chief D Raja were also not allowed to enter Jammu and Kashmir and sent back from Srinagar airport after a brief detention.
Government officials also said that the decision to relax movement and communication restrictions will be taken by the local administration and not by Delhi.
“It is a trade-off between peddling fake news and spreading rumours and inconvenience,” said the officer when asked for how long will the Valley’s residents be inconvenienced by the restrictions, especially where communication clampdown is concerned.
The official added that the administration is aware of the inconvenience and has been taking steps to minimise it. “The treasury has been opened, ATMs are functioning, steps are being taken,” he said.
Meanwhile, state government spokesperson and Principal Secretary Rohit Kansas told reporters that restrictions will be “relaxed in a phased manner”.
Officials in Delhi claimed this is not the first time that restrictions have been imposed in the Valley.
“Why use bombastic language like clampdown, lockdown? How many days has the Hurriyat (Conference) called for a hartal (strike)? For months together, there were restrictions,” an official in the Ministry of Home Affairs said when asked how long the restrictions in Kashmir would continue.
“This time, the state administration has taken preemptive and preventive action to minimise the loss of life. So far, they have done well. So the trade-off is between inconvenience and loss of life,” added the officer. “What people are not realising is the steps taken to minimise inconvenience. These decisions are not central decisions, but ones taken at the local level. The district administration is deciding by how much the restrictions can be relaxed. The situation varies from district to district.”
Kansal said that medical services and the distribution of essential services is the government’s top priority at the moment. He said that the availability of all drugs, including life-saving ones, have been ensured in every hospital across the Valley. The national highway continues to function normally and hundreds of heavy vehicles have been ferrying LPG and other essentials on a daily basis, he added.
Restrictions imposed on people’s movement and communication links in Jammu and Kashmir are being eased out in a phased manner, while the highway connecting Jammu with Srinagar is functioning normally, a Home Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Quoting a statement of the local administration, the spokesperson said flights from the Kashmir Valley are operating normally. “The restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir are being eased out in a phased manner in the Valley and the situation in the Jammu division has been restored after assessment by relevant local authorities,” the spokesperson said.
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