The Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha Monday said that they met various delegations of cross section of society in Kashmir and would come up with a detailed report on the ground situation in Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. Sinha said there is a deep sense of anger, shock and disappointment among the masses in Kashmir.
Besides Sinha, the CCG comprised former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah, Kapil Kak, Sushoba Bharve and journalist Bharat Bhushan.
Sources said the group met with several delegations and members of the civil society after reaching Srinagar on 21 November. They were, however, not allowed to meet the detained political leaders including former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.
Talking to Greater Kashmir from Srinagar Airport, Sinha said that “despite restrictions” on their movement, they were satisfied with their visit.
“We wanted to travel to some areas and meet people from the political spectrum, but were denied permission. But we are still satisfied with our endeavour as we met over 20 delegations of people belonging to various spheres of life,” Sinha said.
Asked about the feedback they received from the people, Sinha said there was a lot of shock, grief, anger and disappointment among the people of all walks of life. “This is what we could feel from our meetings with the people of various shades.”
Sinha said they were planning to prepare a “fact-finding report.”
The former BJP leader-led group concluded their four-day Kashmir visit after being denied permission to meet former Chief Ministers. Sinha had managed to speak to Dr Farooq on phone and wanted a meeting with the NC leader and MP from Srinagar but was denied permission by J&K administration.
“We felt that we were under constant watch by the security agencies. While leaving Srinagar, we decided not to pass through the way where Dr Farooq is detained,” Sinha said.
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The delegation also termed the curbs on their movement in different parts of the Valley as a “deliberate ploy” by the government to hide the ground reality.
It warned that the situation will deteriorate further if the Centre “does not change its behaviour on Kashmir.”
“After talking to various groups of people and individuals, I have come to the conclusion at the end of our visit that the situation is not at all normal.” Sinha told PTI.
Asserting that the Centre’s decision of stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcating it into two Union Territories has caused a “huge psychological problem”, Sinha said an atmosphere of fear was prevailing in the Valley.
“The region’s inhabitants had not expected the enormous move by the Centre that resulted in people being numbed and now that numbness has been replaced by a great deal of fear,” the former Union Finance Minister said.
“There is a prevailing atmosphere of fear here. Even those who came to see us in the hotel were harassed and they told us very clearly that they will not like their names to be revealed because they were not sure what kind of future they will face,” he said.
Asked about the detention of several mainstream political leaders, including sitting Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah – whom he talked to over the phone, Sinha accused the Centre of “destroying a significant buffer” in the Valley and creating a vacuum as people have no one to go to with their grievances.
He termed as very “unfortunate” and “painful” the detention of Abdullah, a political representative elected by the people.
“They have destroyed a significant buffer which was there and they have created a vacuum..there is nobody to talk to,” Sinha said.
He claimed that since the group was not allowed to carry out with its programme that involved travelling and meeting people in the towns and villages in the districts outside Srinagar, it was an indication that the government wanted to hide the ground reality from the rest of the country.
The group members were asked by the police not to move outside Srinagar as the situation was not conducive and there was a threat of an impending militant attack, which Sinha termed as “a deliberate ploy” by the government to restrict their interactions with common people.
“We have come to Kashmir at the height of militancy when the situation on the law and order front was really far from normal. We travelled around in taxis, went to the districts, met people, there was no threat,” he said.
Sinha asserted that the Central Government has maintained that Article 370 was responsible for militancy in Kashmir and now that it has been four months since Article 370 was abolished, people are being told that militancy is still there.
“So, either the first part is true or the second part is,” he said.
However, he added that the visit was still very successful.
“I will describe my visit as very successful because even as we were not allowed to visit, for instance Pulwama or Shopian, but people from Pulwama and Shopian met us here. We met Panchayat representatives, Bar Association members, farmers, youths, we met a very large cross-section of the people,” the former union finance minister said.
When asked if he foresees the situation as returning to normal in the Valley in the near future, Sinha said it would depend on the Centre’s behaviour on the Kashmir issue.
“It is difficult to say when the situation will return to normal, but much of it depends on how the Government of India will behave. If there is no change in its behaviour, then there will be no change in the situation here and if there is any change in the situation, then it will only deteriorate further, he said.