‘Democratic dissent being stifled’

Opposition leaders demand immediate release of political detainees in Kashmir

The Opposition on Monday called for the immediate release of all political detainees in Kashmir, especially Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who have been detained for about seven months on the “flimsiest of grounds”.

In a joint statement, NCP president Sharad Pawar, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool president Mamata Banerjee, Janata Dal(S) leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Kumar Jha, besides two former Ministers from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government — Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — termed these detentions as a blatant violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Observing that India and the Constitution had always stood for “unity in diversity” with everybody’s views respected, honoured and heard, the statement said that in the Narendra Modi-led government, “democratic dissent is being muzzled by coercive administrative action, which has threatened the basic ideals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as enshrined in our Constitution”.

There are growing assaults on democratic norms, fundamental rights and civic liberties of citizens of the Indian Republic, it said, adding that as a result, dissent is not only being stifled, but the avenues of raising critical voices are also being systematically muted.

“Nothing exemplifies this more starkly than the continuing detention, on the flimsiest of grounds, of three former Chief Ministers of Jammu & Kashmir — Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Shri Omar Abdullah and Smt. Mehbooba Mufti — for over seven months. There is nothing in the past records of these three leaders to lend credence to the Modi government’s false and self-serving claim that they pose a threat to ‘public safety’ in J&K or that they have endangered national interests with their activities,” it said.

The very validity of the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978 can be challenged following the dilution of Article 370 as the State had now been stripped off its special status, it added.

“All this exposes the oft-repeated lie of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah that the situation in J&K is ‘completely normal’.” It said while the government had recently organised well-choreographed visits of foreign diplomats to Srinagar, it had placed all kinds of hurdles in the attempts of the representatives of India’s political and media establishment to move freely in the State and assess the situation on the ground.

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