The Congress on Friday condemned the police action against two senior party leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, calling it “madness” and a “dictatorial move”. The party demanded the immediate release of state party chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir and chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma.
Mir was placed under house arrest in Jammu on Friday afternoon, while Sharma was detained for around three hours after being prevented from addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Jammu, The Indian Express reported. Mir is a former minister of the state, while Sharma has earlier been a member of the Legislative Council.
“With this unprovoked action against a national political party, the government has delivered democracy another body blow,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter. “When will this madness end?”
Sharma was on his way to address the press conference when a police team met him and said a senior officer wanted to speak to him. An unidentified officer told PTI that he was taken into preventive custody to maintain law and order. “There was an apprehension that his speech might instigate people and result in law and order situation,” the officer was quoted as saying.
Last week, the central government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two Union territories that will come into effect on October 31. A day before the government announced the decision, the state was put under an unprecedented security and information clampdown, with all landline and internet connections blocked. Restrictions were lifted in Jammu earlier this week.
Earlier on Friday, the state administration said restrictions in the Kashmir Valley would be eased in the coming days “in an orderly way”, and that 12 of the 22 districts were now functioning normally. The administration said preventive detentions were being continuously reviewed and that “appropriate decisions will be made based on law and order assessments”.
Other major political leaders of the state, including former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have been in custody since the day the government announced the decision. Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal was reportedly taken to a makeshift detention centre in Srinagar on Thursday.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and a former chief minister, said that Opposition leaders were not even being allowed to address press conferences even though the state and central governments were claiming that the situation was normal in Jammu and people were celebrating the decision.
“This double speak of the government has exposed it on a number of occasions,” the Congress leader said, according to PTI. He said the action against Mir and Sharma was “in total violation of any democratic norms”, ANI reported.