Srinagar: Opposition parties made another futile attempt at visiting Srinagar on Saturday to gauge the situation there post the scrapping of Article 370. The fact that the delegation included high-profile leaders including former Congress President Rahul Gandhi did not help.
The 12-member delegation that included Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma and K.C. Venugopal, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, and CPI’s D Raja boarded an 11.50 am flight for Srinagar that had barely 30 other passengers besides the sizeable media contingent that accompanied them.
Though there was no official interaction with the media, many leaders expressed hope on the flight that the size of the delegation would help them gain access to the city. However, as soon as the flight landed in Srinagar the leaders were whisked away to the VIP lounge possibly under detention while the accompanying media people were shooed out of the airport, some of them physically. Sources said that at the VIP lounge, the Budgam District Magistrate and other officials asked the leaders to leave as it could create trouble. To this, the leaders assured them that they had no intention of creating trouble and only wanted to gauge the situation.
Rahul told officials that Governor Satyapal Malik had invited him on social media and he was just reciprocating that.
“The Governor has invited me. He has told me to come...so I have come. And the government is telling us everything is normal. If everything is normal then why are we not being allowed outside,” he said, adding, “if there is section 144 in force, then we are ready to go individually”.
Trinamul Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi and Yechury asked: “Where are our colleagues (Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti)?” However, when the officials did not allow them outside and asked them to return, the delegtion wrote a memorandum saying that the objections to their movement outside Srinagar Airport and the apprehensions expressed in the order were baseless.
“They are tantamount to allegations against the purpose of our visit,” the memorandum said.
“The tone and tenor of the order read out attributes to us motives which are baseless and lack substance.”
Despite this, officials asked the delegation to leave, following which they boarded a flight back to Delhi at 3.45 pm.
The flight back though was not without its share of drama when it had to be delayed because of commotion due to the VIP passengers. Some women passengers narrated their tales to the Opposition leaders.
One particular lady, sources said, claimed that Kashmiris have been suffering even during earlier governments to which Rahul asked, “What can we do to win back your trust?”
Earlier, Mr Azad had made two attempts to enter Srinagar and so had Mr Yechury and Mr Raja....