SRINAGAR: Former external affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha, on Friday said that the situation on the ground in the Kashmir Valley appears to be quite in contrast to what home minister, Amit Shah, claimed on the floor of Parliament earlier this week.
Sinha, who is in the Valley at the head of a pressure group which calls itself Concerned Citizens Group, said, “It appears the Kashmir picture presented in Parliament is totally different from the ground reality.”
He said that when he and other members of the team were on their way to the hotel from the Srinagar airport, they saw all the shops were closed and only a few vendors were selling vegetables at some places.
“We feel that the entire chain on which the Kashmir economy is dependent stands disrupted,” he said.
Sinha and former chief information commissioner and former chairman of national minorities commission, Wajahat Habibullah, said that the group is in the Valley to assess the actual ground situation.
The other members of the group on the Valley’s four day visit are Kapil Kak, retired Air Vice-Marshal, Bharat Bhushan, senior journalist and former editor of Catchnews, and Sushobha Barve, executive programme director of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
Habibullah said that suspension of democratic liberties of people is a matter of great concern for him.
“Since we just arrived, we are yet to get the actual mood on ground. But I believe the democratic liberties of people must not be muzzled. If democratic rights are denied to the people, it is a big concern,” he said.
Sinha had tried to reach out to the people of the valley in September but he was detained at the Srinagar airport for more than five hours before being sent back to Delhi. However, the three other members of the Concerned Citizens Group including Kak, Bhushan and Barve were were allowed to enter the city and meet the people.
Habibullah was in the group then but had visited the valley on his own a couple of weeks before.
Recalling the September 19 incident, Sinha said, “I tried to visit Srinagar then but I was not allowed by the centre and the J&K administration. We have been allowed to visit Srinagar now. During the next four days, we will do an independent assessment of the situation and see the nature of economic losses suffered by farmers and industrialists and how the average Kashmiri has suffered.”
He, however, also said that Kashmir has been under the grip of uncertainty since August 5 when Article 370 was abrogated and J&K split into two union territories. “We will assess the actual ground situation and present it to the people of India,” he said.
He said that the group would try to seek permission from the authorities for meeting various political leaders of the Valley who have been detained.
He said that he spoke to National Conference president, Farooq Abdullah, over the phone and it appeared he was high in spirits. “We will try to meet him in person soon,” Sinha said.
Sinha added, “Political leaders, including three former chief ministers, continue to be in detention since August 5. How can you say that the situation is normal?”