President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind
ANI Photo

New Delhi: Nearly 300 Indians, comprising both residents of India and the diaspora representing all walks of life, have petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi to restore mobile and internet connections in Kashmir and hold Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The petitioners maintain that on democratic grounds and humanitarian grounds, the situation is unacceptable. "If the government can take away freedom of expression and the right to debate legislation that affects their lives in Jammu and Kashmir, what prevents them from doing so across the country," they asked.

They said: "It is not too late to roll-back the lockdown, hold legislative assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and let the people decide on Article 370 and statehood."

The petitioners, who also comprised right activists, journalists, academicians including former Kashmir interlocutor Prof Radha Kumar, while batting for early conduct of polls, have stated that the people of J&K should be allowed to discuss the momentous changes to Article 370 and the status of Jammu and Kashmir and take call on these issues through their elected representatives.

Expressing concern over two-month long communication blockade, they maintained that they were unable even to speak to their friends and relatives in the Valley to know about the actual situation.

"The people of the Kashmir valley and parts of Jammu have been under a security, political and communications lockdown since August 5, 2019. Thousands of troops man the entrances and exits to their homes, schools and universities. Hundreds of political leaders, including former chief ministers and legislators are under 'preventive detention.' Mobile phones are blocked and internet snapped. Businesses have lost thousands of crores. At the same time, our government has removed Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and divided the state into two Union Territories. Both steps were taken without consultation with the people of the former state or their elected leaders," they stated.

The petition says: "It has been 63 days since the lockdown and we still do not know how the people of Jammu and Kashmir feel. We are unable even to speak to our friends and relatives in the valley.

On humanitarian grounds, we find this situation unacceptable. The government should restore mobile and internet connections, which were declared a fundamental right just recently by the Kerala High Court."

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