Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha was on Saturday restrained from entering Kashmir and stopped at the Srinagar airport, on the orders of the Budgam district magistrate.
“Navlakha’s movement was restricted under Section 144 of the CrPC issued by Budgam district magistrate. Navlakha’s presence could disturb order and peace in Kashmir,” said senior superintendent of police (SSP) Uttam Chand.
Section 144 can be imposed against an individual or a group of people to prevent obstruction, annoyance of injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, or an at-fray.
Navlakha, convenor of the International Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly, was stopped at Srinagar airport when he arrived from Delhi around 1:50 pm and was not allowed to move out.
“I had come on holidays along with my friend Sehba Hussain. I am outraged. It shows paranoia is unbecoming of the state authorities when there is talk of normalcy and return of tourists. I will challenge it in the court,” Navlakha told Hindustan Times on phone from the Srinagar airport.
Navlakha has been asked to return to Delhi. “We have booked tickets for tomorrow to return to Delhi and will stay at some corner at the airport only for the night,” said Sehba Hussain.
Navlakha has been writing about Kashmir for several years now and was involved in many human rights initiatives, like the case of unmarked graves in Kashmir. His last public speech was in Srinagar on October 24, 2010 where he talked about the summer uprising in a seminar titled ‘Withering Kashmir’.
New Delhi based rights activists have taken strong exception to Navlakha’s restriction. “We need to ask for a stop to this senseless, outrageous harassment,” said documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who released a book on Kashmir this week in Delhi.
Peoples Democratic Party has also condemned the action. “This was an unprecedented action even by the standards of serious rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. Navlakha’s liberty to enter into the state and move freely should be restored as even in worst phases of trouble. Such draconian methods have never been adopted,” said a PDP spokesman.