NEW DELHI: A day after Home Minister Amit Shah said there are no restrictions in the Kashmir Valley, Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad rebutted the statement and asserted that an "environment of fear" is prevailing there with people suffering due to a "government-made disaster".
Azad, who returned from a six-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir recently, alleged that the government restricted his movement despite Supreme Court orders and kept a close watch on those who came to visit him, even video graphing them as they came.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister also alleged that the government was using local government for "repression".
The leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha demanded from the Centre that lakhs of people whose livelihood is dependent on daily earnings should be given free food items for six months, internet and telephone services be restored, examinations postponed, political leaders released, instalment of bank loans of cars, taxis be delayed and interest on them be reduced.
Azad said that he could give a report to the Supreme Court and mention the names of people he met and what they told him.
He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir were carrying out a Gandhian-style civil disobedience movement which too is directed at themselves and not at the government.
The people are not using public transport and staying away from trade to lodge a protest.
Hitting out at the government for abrogating Article 370 provisions that gave special status to the state, he said all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir have been affected by the laws passed by the Indian government, which are not acceptable to the people, and the business has come down to "zero".
The Congress leader also termed the announcement of the election of chairpersons of Block Development Councils (BDC) in the 310 blocks of J&K as the "biggest mockery" of democracy and demanded that delimitation should be done again with the involvement of the Congress, National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party.
The elections have been announced at a time when leaders of all political parties apart from the BJP are locked up, Azad said.
He claimed that many people who wanted to come and meet him in Jammu and Kashmir did not come fearing that they will be "picked up" by security forces later.
Azad alleged that he was not allowed to visit many places during his six-day tour to Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla and Jammu.
"Those who say that there is no restriction in Kashmir, I am a living example standing here that despite the Supreme Court order, I was not allowed to meet many people.
And every visitor that I had, their faces were captured in cameras," Azad said at a press conference here.
"Everything is not okay in both Jammu and in Kashmir, several ruling party leaders are also not speaking due to fear of their national leaders," he added.
Azad asked if there are no restrictions why can't the media go there, why are 10,000-15,000 people in jails, leaders in jail, why permission from the Supreme Court was needed to go and why universities and colleges are closed.
"In all, an environment of fear is prevalent," he said.
His remarks come a day after Shah said that there are no restrictions in the Valley now and expressed confidence that Jammu and Kashmir will be the most developed region in the country in the next 10 years because of the bold step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5.
Azad alleged that the people of J&K are suffering from the government- made a disaster.
"You have given the pain, you need to give medicine," Azad said in a message to the government.
He questioned the logic behind the move when terrorism had gone to almost "zero" in the state.
Azad alleged that the visuals cited by the government to claim normalcy in the state were from the one to one-and-a-half hour period when shops selling food items open in the morning and evening.
"Whatever is told is a lie and deception, neither Jammu nor Kashmir is happy," he asserted.
Azad said the economy in Jammu and Kashmir has been badly hit with all sectors -- from handicrafts, tourism to transport -- are suffering.
The Congress leader claimed that earlier about 100-110 petrol and diesel tankers used to go from Jammu to Kashmir and now, only two were going, reflecting the slump for the transport business as well.
He said that with the change of status of Kashmir from state to Union Territory, the Centre is "threatening" local administration.
He alleged that the Centre was using local government for "repression" as all complaints were against the local administration and none against the Army or the CRPF as used to be the case in the past.
Azad's visit became possible after the Supreme Court on September 16 allowed him to tour the state.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had allowed the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha to visit four districts -- Srinagar, Jammu, Baramulla, Anantnag -- to meet people.
In his petition filed in his "personal capacity", Azad had told the Supreme Court that he had tried to visit the state thrice, but was turned back from the airport.