June 5, 2023

Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad was stopped at Srinagar airport today after he landed in the city, which has been on a security lockdown since midnight Sunday to head off trouble over the centre’s big decisions to end special status under Article 370 and to split the state into two union territories.

A Congress leader at the airport said he will be sent back, news agency ANI reported. “He is being sent back by 3:30 pm flight. He was to attend a meeting and visit his home,” said the leader, who asked not to be named, according to ANI.

Mr Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, was trying to enter Srinagar city and meet with Congress leaders.

Around 400 people have been detained across the state, as “precaution”, and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah remain in custody at safehouses.

“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are sad. I am going there to be a part of their sadness, to be with them,” Mr Azad told reporters. “Probably for the first time, all 22 districts have seen a curfew. Have you heard of this before?”

He also implied that visuals on Wednesday showing National Security Adviser Ajit Doval chatting with Kashmiris in Srinagar and sharing a meal with them on the streets – seen to be an attempt to convey that the situation is returning to normal – were a set-up.

“You can pay anyone to get these done,” Mr Azad said.

The former Chief Minister, however, faces a divide within his own party on the government’s Jammu and Kashmir move. While he has argued strongly in parliament against what he calls the “murder of democracy”, several Congress leaders have come out in the government’s support. They include Jyotiraditya Scindia, Janardhan Dwivedi, Deepender Hooda and Milind Deora.

At a meet on Tuesday of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, Mr Azad spoke at length about the Kashmir decision, explaining his strong opposition to the move.

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