Former president of the Indian Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, on Sunday said that he had experienced firsthand "the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the Jammu & Kashmir people" as he shared his encounter at the Srinagar airport which had taken place a day earlier.
Tweeting about his disturbing experience — when he, along with a delegation of India's opposition parties, was prevented from entering the city by the Indian-occupied Kashmir administration — the Congress leader wrote:
"It's been 20 days since the people of Jammu & Kashmir had their freedom and civil liberties curtailed. Leaders of the Opposition and the Press got a taste of the draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the people of J&K when we tried to visit Srinagar yesterday."
The opposition leaders had intended to visit Kashmir to assess the situation in the wake of the BJP government's decision to revoke the occupied region's special autonomy.
In a video shared by the Congress party leader, he can be seen speaking to officials and explaining that he had been invited by the governor. "The government has invited me, the governor has said that I am invited. So I have come, and now you are saying 'You cannot come'."
"The government is saying that everything is okay here, everything is normal. So if everything is normal, why are we not allowed out? It's a bit surprising," he says.
Gandhi, in an attempt to reason with the officials, proposes that if it is a matter of the movement of groups being prohibited under Section 144, then they are all willing to go individually.
"We wanted to go and see the people, get a sense of what the people are going through, and try and help with the situation if possible," he says towards the end of the video in front of cameras. "Unfortunately we were not allowed to go beyond the airport."
"It's a very sad thing but the press people who were with us were mishandled. Some of them were beaten," says Gandhi.
"It is very clear that things are not normal in Jammu and Kashmir," he concludes by saying.
According to Reuters, the local administration of Jammu and Kashmir would not allow the opposition members to leave the airport at Srinagar and had booked a return flight to New Delhi for them a few hours after they landed.
Around eight senior leaders from several parties including the Congress, Communist Party of India and All India Trinamool Congress had boarded the flight from New Delhi.
The Congress had tweeted that the visit led by Gandhi was "an attempt to review the reality in the region after the abrogation of Article 370".
Following the incident, the party condemned the BJP government's move to prevent opposition leaders from visiting occupied Kashmir, asking on Twitter why the delegation was sent back if, according to the government, the situation in the valley was "normal".
"What is the Modi govt trying to hide?" it had further questioned.
Later in the day, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had questioned what can realistically be expected from India in terms of a dialogue over the disputed territory of Kashmir, when this is how they treat their own.
"This is the true face of the Indian government which the world is witnessing today," the foreign minister had said during a press conference in Islamabad.
"Today the fascist attitude of the Modi administration was demonstrated at the Srinagar airport," he had said.
"I call upon democratic nations of the world to view that footage [of the airport]. When they treat their own this way, what expectation can we [Pakistan] have from holding a dialogue with them?" said Qureshi.