February 15, 2020 11:17 pm

Authorities Disallow Kashmir Conference

Congress Leader Mani Shankar Aiyar – File Pic

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI – Jammu and Kashmir authorities did not allow a conference on the Union Territory’s future in which senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar was to participate as no prior permission was sought for it, officials said on Saturday.

Aiyar claimed he was put under “hotel arrest” and police stopped people who were to attend the conference titled ‘Jammu and Kashmir– The Road Ahead and organised by an NGO, from entering the hotel which was the venue of the meeting.

Officials denied Aiyar being under any “hotel arrest”.

They said no prior permission was sought for hosting the conference.

The authorities also said there was no detention of Aiyar and he was free to go to the airport in the morning to catch his return flight as scheduled.

The Congress leader said he arrived in Srinagar on Friday for the conference organised by the Centre for Peace and Progress at the invitation of the organisation’s chairman O P Shah.

“In the morning (on Saturday), police arrived and told Mr. Shah, when I was on a morning walk, that he is not allowed to hold the meeting which was scheduled at 1 PM today at the hotel in which we are staying. After that he called me and asked me to return to the hotel as quickly as possible. A policeman came and said he was under orders to inform Mr Shah that the meeting would not take place,” Aiyar told PTI over phone from the hotel.

“Police stopped people at the gate from coming inside. Both Mr Shah and I were at the gate. I am hoping both of us will be able to return to Delhi tomorrow as we are booked on flights,” the former Union minister said.

There seems to be a strange sort of a “hotel arrest”, he alleged.

“I read in the newspapers how the envoys were shown that there was normalcy here and I wish they had seen the condition in which Mr Shah and I are in. We came here as Indians, this is an unbreakable and ‘atoot ang’ of India, to meet our co-Indians and we find that our co-Indians are being denied their rights,” Aiyar said.

The Shah-led organisation has been regularly holding meetings in Jammu, Srinagar and New Delhi. Its headquarters is in Kolkata, Aiyar said.

On August 5, last year, the government reorganised Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating the state into two union territories and withdrew its special powers. It also imposed severe curbs including on movement of people as well as on mobile telephone and internet connectivity.

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