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Opposition demands release of Kashmir political leaders

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and seven other top opposition leaders on Monday demanded immediate release of political prisoners in Jammu & Kashmir, particularly the three former Chief Ministers.

Pawar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, formerPrime Minister and JD-S chief H.D. DeveGowda, CPI-M General SecretarySitaramYechury, CPI chief D. Raja, RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha, and former UnionMinisters Yashwant Sinha and ArunShourie, in a joint statement, termed thedetentions as a violation of fundamental rights and attacked the NarendraModigovernment for "threatening" the Constitution's basic ideals.

Seeking the release of Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, ofthe National Conference, and Mehbooba Mufti, of the Peoples Democratic Party,they said: "There is nothing in the past records of these three leaders tolend credence to the Modi government's false and self-serving claim that theypose a threat to public safety in J&K or that they have endangered nationalinterests with their activities."

"Ironically, the BJP itself has allied with all threeof them, and their parties, in the past, both at the Centre with the NationalConference and in the state with People's Democratic Party," they said inthe statement. "We also demand complete and verifiable restoration of therights and freedoms of our Kashmiri brethren, who, against all odds, haverepeatedly shown their allegiance to the Indian Union, by being an integralpart of our democratic process. It is bounden duty to demand the release ofthree former Chief Ministers."

The statement said that India and its constitution havealways stood for "unity in diversity with everybody's views respected,honoured and heard". "However, in the government of ShriNarendraModi, democratic dissent is being muzzled by coercive administrativeaction, which has threatened the basic ideals of Justice, Liberty, Equality andFraternity as enshrined in our Constitution.

"There are growing assaults on democratic norms,fundamental rights and civic liberties of citizens of the Indian Republic. As aresult, dissent is not only being stifled, but the avenues of raising criticalvoices are also being systematically muted," the statement read.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Muftiwere detained following the Centre's August 5, 2019 decision to abrogatespecial status of the erstwhile state, besides its bifurcation into two unionterritories. They were booked in February this year under the stringent PublicSafety Act.

NC president Farooq Abdullah, who was under house arrest,was detained in September under PSA.

The leaders said the indefinite detention of three formerCMs of J-K and other political activists is a blatant violation of theirfundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

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