Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi vowed on Tuesday to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, as his Congress party’s long march reached the Muslim-majority region that in 2019 was stripped of its special autonomy.
Gandhi’s campaign, Bharat Jodo Yatra, or Unite India March, went from the country’s southernmost tip in Tamil Nadu to its mountainous north. It entered Kashmiri territory last week.
The region lost its statehood when the Indian government revoked on Aug. 5, 2019, its special autonomous status, and split it into two federally governed territories, promising security and reform.
The abrogation was followed by a total communications blackout, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, detention of hundreds of local political leaders, and dissolution of its assemblies.
“Jammu and Kashmir should get statehood as soon as possible and your assembly should start functioning and the democratic system in the state should again become vibrant,” Gandhi said in a press conference in Jammu.
He did not make a clear statement, however, on the restoration of the region’s autonomy, which was granted by Article 370 of the constitution that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had unilaterally scrapped.
Gandhi’s long march will end when he reaches Srinagar next week. The 52-year-old politician, whose family has been the face of Congress for decades, has already covered about 3,300 km so far, walking with hundreds of others from his party, celebrities and civil society members.—AN