Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram slammed the Modi government on Thursday over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it had an "ill-thought out, ill-founded and ill-intentioned" design and policy to suppress the basic freedoms of the people there. Addressing a press conference, the former home minister also said he intended to visit Jammu and Kashmir if the government allowed him to do so.
"As I stepped out and breathed the air of freedom at 8 pm yesterday, my first thought and prayers were for the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir Valley, who have been denied their basic freedoms since August 4," he said, referring to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories.
"I am particularly concerned about the political leaders who have been detained without charges. Freedom is indivisible -- if we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom," Chidambaram, who was released from Tihar Jail on bail in connection with the INX Media money-laundering case on Wednesday, said.
Asked if parallels could be drawn between the government's assurances on issues related to Kashmir and the economy, the former Union finance minister answered in the negative, saying as far as the economy was concerned "the reason is incompetence, while in Kashmir, it is the government's arrogance".
"As far as the economy is concerned, the reason is incompetence. As far as Kashmir is concerned, the reason is arrogance. In Kashmir, it is an ill-thought out, ill-founded, ill-intentioned design and policy to suppress the basic freedoms of people.
As regards the economy, it is simply ignorance, incompetence," the 74-year-old Congress leader said.
Most of the top-level and second-rung separatist leaders have been taken into preventive custody in Kashmir, while mainstream political leaders, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have either been detained or placed under house arrest.
Pre-paid mobile phones and internet services across all platforms remained suspended since 5 August, when the Centre announced the decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into Union territories.
Chidambaram appeared to turn emotional when asked about the recent instances of rape in the country and said, "I am shocked. I am ashamed. Yesterday, in one newspaper, I found six incidents of rape and lynching. In one paper, in one day, six incidents of rape and lynching. Shameful."
He said it was a matter of shame that a section of people thought they could get away with such acts with impunity. "It is a complete breakdown of law and order in many parts of India. What is the police doing? Where is the fear of law?," the Congress leader asked.