Modi govt muzzling democratic dissent : Opposition demands release of 3 former J&K CMs

Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee along with 6 senior opposition leaders have demanded the release of political detainees in Kashmir, especially Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti

Modi govt muzzling democratic dissent : Opposition demands release of 3 former J&K CMs
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NH Web Desk

A day after former finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir Altaf Bukhari launched his new regional political outfit JK Apni Party, National Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee along with 6 senior opposition leaders demanded the release of political detainees in Kashmir, especially the three former Chief Ministers of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, HD Deve Gowa, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Manoj Kumar Jha, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie have issued a joint statement on Monday in this regard.

Slamming the central government, the opposition leaders said, “in the government of Shri Narendra Modi, 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”

“Nothing exemplifies this more starkly than the continuing detention, on 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,” read the statement.

“Ironically, the BJP itself has allied with all three of them, and their parties, in the past, both at the Centre (with National Conference) and in the state (with People’s Democratic Party). The very validity of the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978 can be challenged following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as the state has now been stripped off its Special Status.”

Three former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers have been in detention in the Valley since August 5, 2019, and have been slapped by Public Safety Act. Omar Abdullah's father Farooq has been kept at his Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti too has been detained in a government building on M.A. Road, Srinagar.

Here is the entire statement by 8 opposition leaders:

INDIA and its CONSTITUTION have always stood for ‘unity in diversity’ with everybody’s views respected, honoured and heard. However, in the government of Shri Narendra Modi, 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. 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 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. Ironically, the BJP itself has allied with all three of them, and their parties, in the past, both at the Centre (with National Conference) and in the state (with People’s Democratic Party). The very validity of the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978 can be challenged following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as the state has now been stripped off its Special Status.

The indefinite detention of the three former CMs of J&K, along with many other political activists, is a blatant violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. This must be seen in the larger context of the prolonged lockdown of the state since 5 August 2019, which also is an attack on the Constitutionally assured rights and dignity of millions of our sisters and brothers in Kashmir.

All this exposes the oft-repeated lie of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah that the situation in J&K is “completely normal”. Whereas the government has recently organized well-choreographed visits of the foreign diplomats to Srinagar in a bid to show the world that the situation in J&K is “normal”, it has placed all kinds of hurdles in the attempts of representatives of India’s own political and media establishment to move freely in the state and assess the situation on the ground.

Under these circumstances, political parties committed to safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens and securing the sanctity of the Constitution, cannot sit quiet. It is our bounden duty to demand the immediate release of the three former Chief Ministers of J&K and all the other political detainees. We also demand complete and verifiable restoration of the rights and freedoms of our Kashmiri brethren, who, against all odds, have repeatedly shown their allegiance to the Indian Union, by being an integral part of our democratic process.

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Published: 9 Mar 2020, 2:20 PM