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In Srinagar, Rahul Gandhi calls for full restoration of statehood to J&K

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday demanded restoration of full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir alongside “free and fair elections” to be held in J&K.

Gandhi was speaking after inaugurating a Congress office in Srinagar — his first address to party workers after the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories. He had earlier in August 2019 attempted to visit Kashmir but was not allowed to leave Srinagar airport.

In his address on Tuesday — the second day of his two-day visit to the UT —Gandhi said, “We are not allowed to speak in Parliament. Whether it is Pegasus, Rafale, J&K, corruption or unemployment, I cannot speak about it in Parliament.” The Congress leader added that all institutions in the country “are under attack”. “There is an attack on the whole country — J&K, Tamil Nadu or Bengal. The concept of India, the democratic structure and our Constitution are under attack.”

Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who also addressed the gathering, recalled the clampdown imposed throughout J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 and said that he and other party leaders tried to visit the Valley but were not permitted to do so. “I had to approach the Supreme Court which gave limited access. I could only visit Baramulla, Anantnag and Jammu,” he said.

Gandhi stated that while the attack on the rest of the country is “indirect”, the attack is more direct in Jammu and Kashmir. “Our position is clear. Full statehood should be restored to J&K and the democratic process, in terms of free and fair elections should be held,” he said. “I fight against Narendra Modi. We will fight against him and his ideology — the ideology of dividing India and the ideology of violence — we will fight and defeat them.”

Azad, speaking of the June 24 meeting between the Prime Minister and the political leadership of J&K, said that the assurances given by the PM at the all-party meeting, including to the five-point programme proposed by Congress, will be considered.

Gandhi said that the values on which India was founded also includes Kashmiriyat and “this feeling resides in me as well.” He added that while his family lives in New Delhi now, “before this, they lived at Allahabad and before that, they lived here. I may not have spent much time here but I can say that I understand you a little. When I come here, I feel like I am coming home.”

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