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Mani Shanker Aiyar slams envoys who claimed to have seen signs of normalcy in J&K

Mani Shankar Aiyar. File

Mani Shankar Aiyar. File  

Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar, who was restricted to a Srinagar hotel and prevented from participating in a conference here, termed the Kashmir situation far from normal and criticised the foreign diplomats who claimed to see signs of normalcy during their recent visit.“Any foreign Ambassdor who went to Srinagar just two days before I did and claimed that he has seen signs of normalcy should never have been promoted to above third secretary status. I say this as an Indian foreign service officer,” Mr. Aiyar told The Hindu.

Mr. Aiyar and O.P. Shah, who heads the Centre for Peace and Progress, had planned a meet and invited civil society groups.

”The hotel where we were staying had just three rooms booked. It was me, Mr. Shah and an armed policeman who monitored movement of all those who visited us. Hours before the conference was to start, the police barricaded the hotel. We were also restricted to its premises,” Mr. Aiyar said.

”If the foreign envoys could visit and meet the groups of delegations recently despite Section 144, why can’t we meet groups inside a hotel? It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy,” he said.

“I decided to visit J&K because the Prime Minister said opposition leaders should go there and see for themselves. Besides, Mr. Amit Shah said he is not placing any restrictions on people going or coming. In effect, if one goes to endorse their normalcy, you are allowed to go. If you want to listen to people and see what is boiling in their hearts, it's not allowed,” said Mr. Aiyar.

He said during his stay in Kashmir he just witnessed empty hotels, shikara-walas (boat owners) waiting to host a tourist and armed security personnel manning the streets.

“It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Mr. Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy. What are they afraid of if normalcy has returned? Why are they continuing with restrictions on the people of Kashmir. There is fear and apprehension everywhere that the lid on the steam kettle will blow off by the internal pressure. Though nobody is able to say when and what will be the trigger. Many here fear ailing Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani's death could provide that trigger,” he added.

This kind of behaviour, he said, showed that the situation in Kashmir is not under control of the Government of India. “The huge military presence seems an attempt at dominating the local population,” he added.

The Congress leader said there were bogus attempts at creating some kind of alternative to the genuine leadership, which is in the prison. “I realised that the entire Sheikh family is in now detention of one kind or other without recognition to the fact that this is the family that acceded with India and upheld the flag of India for 70 years in every corner of Kashmir,” he added.

He lamented that there was no attempt to reach out to the people. “It’s believed that by intimidation and by cultivating quislings, the Centre will be able to sell development discourse. J&K is far ahead on most of the development indices because of Article 370. In fact, there is plummeting of J&K’s GDP since August 5. The Kashmir problem is far from over but got aggravated instead,” he warned.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 10:42:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-leader-mani-shanker-aiyar-slams-envoys/article30837856.ece

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