Press Trust of india

Release political detainees, open political space in J-K: Yashwant Sinha-led citizen’s group

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Srinagar: The Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG) headed by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday sought release of all political detainees in Jammu and Kashmir on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr and opening of political space in the union territory.

“Many senior political leaders, including a former chief minister (Mehbooba Mufti), continue to be in detention in several cases under the draconian Public Safety Act. Meanwhile, there are attempts to incubate artificial political processes – through the village and local body elections and facilitating the launch of a new political party. However, these processes have failed to fill the political vacuum,” the CCG said in a statement.

It said the Centre should release all those detained since August last year.

“We recommend the release of all political leaders. A befitting occasion for doing so would be the upcoming festival of Eid ul Fitr. Also, political space in J-K be opened without which militancy cannot be controlled,” the statement said.

The CCG said the Union government has also used the opportunity of the lockdown to implement domicile laws for the union territory which should have been debated by the people’s representatives and by the affected citizens.

“Do not use the lack of a legislative assembly to push through policies with long term consequences,” the group said.

It also demanded the restoration of high-speed 4G internet services in J-K to alleviate the problems of businessmen, traders, healthcare professionals and most importantly students so that they do not lose an academic year.

“The communication lockdown – permitting only 2G internet, premised on the assumption that faster internet speeds help terrorists — is causing havoc not only in banking, trade, business and healthcare, but in the field of education as well. The 2G technology cannot sustain online learning, which is a ready option being used in the rest of the country.

“The problem is particularly acute for students who have returned home because of the pandemic from universities and colleges in the rest of India. They cannot attend online classes and webinars or submit assignments. They may not be able to appear for online end-semester examinations which universities and colleges plan to hold soon,” it said.

The other members of the group are former National Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, Air Vice-Marshall (Retd) Kapil Kak, senior journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushobha Barve.

The Sinha-led group said the government’s stand before the Supreme Court that access to internet is not a right militates against the apex court’s own rulings that  information is a Fundamental Right under Article 19 (1) a of the Constitution.

Saying that the economy in J-K was in disarray, the CCG recommended extension of the same bank loan deferment and facilities to J-K businesses as in the rest of the country, while also ensuring unfettered market access and adequate distribution channels for horticultural produce.

“For a state that is heavily dependent on tourism and horticulture, the lockdown has meant that two tourist seasons have passed without any business and the marketing of fruit produce has been hampered severely.

“Artisans face distress and dealers in handicrafts are unable to function with piling up of stocks. No relief measures have been announced for them. Unlike in the rest of India, there has been no deferment/ staggering of bank loans in J-K,” the statement said.

The CCG accused the government of bullying the media, saying the administration has chosen to harass local accredited correspondents and photo-journalists, preventing them from performing their legitimate professional duties.

“Several have been called to police stations at odd hours to explain their reportage. Instead of using editorial and Press Council of India complaint mechanisms, the state police seems to be the preferred instrument of the administration to deal with journalists,” it said.

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