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Indian Communist leader slams ‘denial of basic democratic rights’ over Kashmir detention

COMMUNIST Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury has protested to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind over his detention in Srinagar on Friday, when he and Communist Party of India leader Doraisamy Raja were held at the city’s airport while trying to visit party members in Jammu and Kashmir and denied entry to the state.

Mr Yechury said the decision to prevent their visit to Jammu and Kashmir — which is in uproar following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revocation of Article 370 of the constitution that guaranteed it autonomy — was a denial of their “basic elementary democratic rights.”

The visit was in order to meet CPI-M central committee member Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, a four-times elected member of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, which was dissolved late last year by India’s central government. But Mr Yechury says he and Mr Raja were told their presence in Srinagar was a threat to law and order.

He added that the president ought to be aware of “widespread discontent among the people” of Jammu and Kashmir, “people’s protests and police violence against them” and called on him to intervene to “ensure that all Indian citizens are permitted to exercise their fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.”

Former CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat warned that the Hindu chauvinist BJP government’s decision to abolish Jammu and Kashmir and replace it with “two centrally run union territories” broke Article 3 of the constitution because the local legislature had not been consulted and the move was based on “coercion and control” by ministers who saw the local population as “aliens because they are Muslim.” 

“The BJP rulers’ contempt for the people of Kashmir became manifest when they launched a huge security operation before bringing constitutional changes to parliament,” he wrote in People’s Democracy. “Tens of thousands of additional central armed police forces and troops were deployed. Leaders of the major political parties were detained. There was an information blackout, with internet and mobile phone services shut down ... Kashmir became a vast prison house.”

The party is warning that India’s government is riding roughshod over traditional state rights, boosting central police powers to override state police chiefs and limiting state powers to decide policy on education and consumer protection in an “all-out assault on state rights.”

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