Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and other opposition leaders will visit Srinagar on Saturday, sources said, days after the former Congress president accepted Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Governor Satya Pal Malik's offer to visit the Valley to review the situation after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 that gave a special status to the state.
On August 13, Gandhi said he and other opposition leaders would visit Jammu and Kashmir and urged Malik to allow them the freedom to meet people, and soldiers.
Gandhi said in a tweet, "Dear Governor Malik, A delegation of opposition leaders & I will take you up on your gracious invitation to visit J&K and Ladakh. We won't need an aircraft but please ensure us the freedom to travel & meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there."
On August 12, Governor Malik invited Gandhi to visit Jammu and Kashmir, saying he would send an aircraft for him, after the Congress leader said, "People were dying in the state and the situation was not normal as claimed by the government.
Later, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram hit out at Malik, saying his invitation to Gandhi to visit the state was a "tool of propaganda" and never sincere. He said alleging that Gandhi has put conditions is rubbish, as he only asked for freedom to meet everyone, including soldiers
"J&K Governor's invitation to Rahul Gandhi was never a sincere invitation. It was a tool of propaganda.To say that Rahul Gandhi put conditions is rubbish. Rahul Gandhi asked for freedom to meet everyone, including soldiers. How is that putting conditions?," he asked on Twitter.
According to sources, some of the parties that will be part of the opposition all-party delegation are Congress, CPI-M, CPI, RJD, NCP, TMC and DMK.
The sources said top Congress leaders who will visit Srinagar are Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma. Rahul Gandhi is likely to accompany them.
CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, RJD's Manoj Jha and Dinesh Trivedi from the Trinamool Congress will be part of the delegation that will leave for Srinagar around noon from the Delhi airport, the sources said.
Senior Congress leaders were huddled in a meeting on Friday evening to discuss the issue within the party. The sources said the leaders also intend to visit some other parts of the state, if allowed to enter.
So far, the government has not allowed any political leader to enter the state ever since provisions of Article 370 were abrogated by the Centre.
Leaders of regional parties, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been put under house arrest. Congress MP Azad was not allowed to enter the state and was stopped twice, both at Srinagar and Jammu.
Earlier, Raja was also stopped at Srinagar airport and sent back.
The Jammu and Kashmir government issued a statement asking political leaders not to visit the Valley as it would disturb the gradual restoration of peace and normal life.
It also said the visit by politicians would be in violation of restrictions that have been imposed in many areas of the Valley.
The statement from the Jammu and Kashmir administration said at a time when the government is trying to protect the people of the state from the threat of cross-border terrorism and attacks by militants and separatists and gradually trying to restore public order by controlling miscreants and mischief-mongers, attempts should not be made by senior political leaders to disturb the gradual restoration of normal life.
"Political leaders are requested to cooperate and not visit Srinagar as they would be putting other people to inconvenience. They would also be violating restrictions that are still there in many areas. Senior leaders should understand that top priority would be given to maintaining peace, order and preventing loss of human lives," the statement said.
(With PTI inputs)