Leaders from various political parties shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi against the revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Thursday. — AP
Leaders from various political parties shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi against the revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Thursday. — AP

NEW DELHI: Nine Indian opposition parties fearing that something grave is afoot in India-held Jammu and Kashmir came together in a protest here on Thursday demanding the immediate release of political leaders detained in the restive region.

“We must recognise that this is no democracy. If we fail to understand this, then we are living in a fool’s paradise,” former J&K chief minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

“Something grave is happening in J&K and the government is trying to hide it. The media is not allowed to telecast the truth,” he said at the meeting attended by major opposition parties.

The protest was organised by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam of Tamil Nadu. Law to nullify Article 370 was brought in through the back door, Mr Azad said. Invoking former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpa­yee, he said had Vajpayee been in the prime minister’s chair, such a thing would not have happened.

Speaking earlier, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury too inv­ok­ed Vajpayee. Calling the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir a direct assault on all pillars of the constitution, he said the government had forgotten the slogan given by Vajpayee, “Kashmiriyat, Jamhu­riyat aur Insaniyat”.

The nine parties adopted a resolution demanding “immediate release of all public representatives of mainstream political parties and innocent citizens”.

“We also demand the immediate restoration of normalcy and communications so that people can reach out to their loved ones and their family members,” it read.

It was unusual to see Trinamool Congress and the communists on the same platform, which was also sha­r­ed by Mulayam Yadav’s Samaj­wadi Party, Farooque Abdullah’s Nat­ional Conference and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal together with several Tamil parties.

Meanwhile, Indian reports quoted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei as expressing concern over the situation of Muslims in Kashmir, which has been on the edge since the Narendra Modi government repealed Article 370, which granted special status to the state, and bifurcated it into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

Taking to Twitter, Khamenei said: “We’re concerned about Muslims’ situation in #Kashmir. We have good relations with India, but we expect the Indian government to adopt a just policy towards the noble people of Kashmir and prevent the oppression & bullying of Muslims in this region.”

He also blamed the United Kingdom for the “disputes between India &Pakistan”, saying: “The British intentionally left this wound in that region in order to sustain conflicts in Kashmir.”

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019