Congress MP Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the Centre on Sunday over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. This came a day after a delegation of Opposition leaders, including Gandhi, was sent back from Srinagar airport.

“It has been 20 days since the people of Jammu and Kashmir had their freedom and civil liberties curtailed,” tweeted the former Congress president. “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 Centre imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout in the state earlier this month before withdrawing its special status and splitting it into two Union Territories. The restrictions on public gatherings and movement are still in place.

Gandhi posted a video in which he was seen arguing with Kashmiri administration and police officials in Srinagar on Saturday along with other Congress leaders. One of the officials read out an order that claimed the delegation intended to organise a protest in Srinagar, and said they were restricted from holding any meeting.

“The thing is, the government has invited me,” Gandhi was seen telling the authorities. “The governor has invited me. But now that I have come, you are saying I cannot go [to Srinagar]. So that is a bit surprising. If everything is normal then why are we not allowed?”

The Congress leader told the officials that the delegation would visit any area that is peaceful. “If it is [Section] 144, then I am ready to go individually.”

Gandhi reiterated that he was invited by the governor. “We want to go and see the people, get a sense of what the people are going through,” he told the press. “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. It is very clear that things are not normal in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Governor Satya Pal Malik had invited Gandhi to visit the state earlier this month to understand the situation there. However, on August 14, Malik said a decision on Gandhi’s visit would be taken “at a convenient time”. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad was twice stopped from entering the state, and sent back to New Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir state flag taken down

Meanwhile, authorities took the Jammu and Kashmir state flag off the Civil Secretariat building in Srinagar on Sunday, and replaced it with the Indian flag, The Indian Express reported. From now, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh will only fly the Tricolour.

The state adopted a separate Constitution in 1956 that allowed it to have its own flag.

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