CHANDIGARH – Attacking the BJP-led Union government, Senior CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury here on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of J-K political leaders, terming their arrest illegal.
“No normal activity is taking place in the Valley for the past three months. Several political leaders have been illegally confined and put under house arrest. They should be immediately released,” he said, adding “civil liberty” and “constitutional rights” of citizens should be restored.
There have been 5,161 “preventive arrests”, including politicians, separatists and stone-pelters, in the Kashmir valley since August 4, the day before Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was revoked, the government informed Parliament on Wednesday.
Yechury, who is the general secretary of the CPI-M, also said shutdowns in Kashmir following the abrogation of the special status had crippled the Valley’s economy and demanded that the losses suffered by traders be declared as a national calamity.
“Shutdowns have crippled the Valley’s economy. The business community, including apple growers, has estimated to have suffered losses to over Rs 10,000 crore in three months. It should be declared a national calamity,” Yechury told media persons here.
He said some shops open only for a few hours early in the morning and late in the evening while the public transport remained off the roads.
“The normal life in the Valley has remained paralysed. The suspension of Internet services is also hitting Kashmir’s economy and its people badly. We demand that the government immediately restore all communication,” he said.
Replying to a question, he said the government allowed a group of European parliamentarians to visit Kashmir, but not its own MPs.
Yechury said that the CPI-M would hold a month-long protest in December against various “anti-people” policies and decisions of the Centre, including the “large-scale privatisation”.
“The country’s economy is in a recession stage, industrial growth has fallen to its lowest, consumer expenditure is down, unemployment is at its peak, farmers are in distress and committing suicides. There are layoffs in the industry, with the auto sector being the worst hit where 10 lakh people, including those working in ancillary units, have lost their jobs,” he said.
He also said while rich industrialists were being given tax concessions, the government was not helping farmers by announcing a loan waiver.
“So, against various anti-people policies and decisions of this government, we will be holding protests in December, which will culminate in a nationwide protest on January 8, in which over 20 crore workers will go on strike on the call of 10 central trade unions,” he said.
About electoral bonds, Yechury said his party had taken a principled stand that it was against such bonds.
“We believe that these bonds are a way to legalise political corruption. Therefore, these bonds should be scrapped,” he said.
Replying to a question on West Bengal, Yechury said the pooling of the anti-BJP, anti-TMC votes had to be maximised in the 2021 assembly polls.
With Union Home Minister Amit Shah saying in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the process to implement the National Register of Citizens would be carried out across the country, Yechury said extending it beyond Assam was wrong.
“We think that extending the NRC beyond Assam is wrong. The NRC is only a specific thing directed in the Assam accord, so it has got nothing to do with the rest of the country. Though they (BJP) say it’s not based on religion but the whole point is finally is to come back to polarisation in the country. So, we are opposed to extending the NRC beyond Assam,” he said.