Former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha on Monday said that the situation in the Kashmir Valley is “not at all normal”, PTI reported. The former finance minister made the remark after wrapping up the visit of his delegation to Kashmir.

The delegation, called the Concerned Citizens’ Group, also alleged that the curbs imposed on their movement in the Valley were a ploy by the Centre to hide the ground reality. It warned that the situation in the Valley will deteriorate further if the Centre does not change its behaviour towards Kashmir.

“After talking to various groups of people and individuals, I have come to the conclusion at the end of our visit that the situation is not at all normal,” Sinha told PTI. Sinha claimed that the Centre’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special constitutional status under Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories had created a “huge psychological problem” there. The former minister said an atmosphere of fear prevails in the Valley.

The Centre had abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, and had imposed a complete lockdown in the state. The curfew has only been partially eased so far.

“There is a prevailing atmosphere of fear here,” Sinha told PTI. “Even those who came to see us in the hotel were harassed by security forces and they told us very clearly that they will not like their names to be revealed because they were not sure what kind of future they will face.”

Sinha also said that by keeping major regional political leaders, like National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah in detention, the Centre has deprived the people of Kashmir from a source of expressing their grievances. Sinha had talked to Abdullah over the phone during his visit.

Sinha said the Concerned Citizens Group was not allowed to visit the towns and villages beyond Srinagar, which clearly showed that the government wants to hide the reality of the situation in Kashmir.

The former BJP leader said security personnel told them the situation outside Srinagar was not conducive and there was a threat of a terror attack. “We have come to Kashmir at the height of militancy when the situation on the law and order front was really far from normal,” Sinha told PTI. “We travelled around in taxis, went to the districts, met people, there was no threat.”

Sinha said that despite these problems, he would describe his visit to Kashmir as “very successful”. “I will describe my visit as very successful because even as we were not allowed to visit, for instance Pulwama or Shopian, but people from Pulwama and Shopian met us here [in Srinagar],” he said. “We met Panchayat representatives, Bar Association members, farmers, youths, we met a very large cross-section of the people.”

The former finance minister said that the future situation in Kashmir will depend on the actions of the central government.

On November 21, the Jammu and Kashmir administration, which is under President’s Rule, had told the Supreme Court that the situation in the Union Territory was “normal”. It was responding to a petition by Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad against restrictions on the media and freedom of movement imposed in the Union Territory.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing for the government, had said that the allegations of the petitioners were incorrect and presented a “grim picture”, which was far from reality. A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana, however, said that the petitioners have argued their case in detail and Mehta will have to answer in detail.

The court was expected to hear the matter on Monday.