Restore rights of Kashmiris: Chidambaram after release

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram arrives to address a press conference at AICC HQ in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma) (PTI12_5_2019_000070B)

New Delhi, Dec 5: Breathing the air of freedom after 106 days made him first think about the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir valley, former finance minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday, a day after he was released from Tihar jail.

“As I stepped out and breathed the air of freedom at 8pm last night, my first thought and prayers were for the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir valley who have been denied their basic freedoms since August 5, 2019,” the Congress leader said at a press conference, his first after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX media case.

Quoting late South African president Nelson Mandela, Chidambaram said “freedom is indivisible” as he called for the restoration of the rights of Kashmiris, who have been placed under severe restrictions for over four months now.

The famous Mandela quote from his autobiography was based on his belief that once freedom of anyone is restricted, it can start an irreversible decline that is difficult to stop.

“If we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom,” said Chidambaram in lines that again recalled Mandela’s fight for liberty of all.

The 74-year-old also expressed concern for the political leaders of Kashmir, who he said have been detained without charges. “If the government allows me, I will definitely visit Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

Almost the entire mainstream political class of Kashmir, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, with whose Peoples Democratic Party the BJP had at one time formed government in Jammu and Kashmir, are still under arrest.

The government had placed the Valley under a security lockdown as it moved to revoke the special constitutional status of the Muslim-majority region on August 5 by deploying thousands of additional troops and imposing a communication blackout.

While some restrictions have since been lifted, several still remain, including the blackout on internet services.

The government maintains these detentions and restrictions are necessary to prevent trouble makers from fanning tensions. The Congress party, along with others in the opposition, has raised the issue of the prolonged clampdown on rights during the Parliament session, but the government insists that this situation is normal.

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