The Union government, responding to agitated Opposition members’ demand for the release of political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir, today said it was up to the local administration to take a call on the matter.

The issue of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which has since been accorded the status of a Union Territory through a legislative provision in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370, came up during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha.

Replying to Congress member K Sreedhar’s question on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir post revoking of Article 370, Minister of State for Home Krishen Reddy claimed that all was well in J&K. He said since 5 August, not a single person had died in police firing. He also claimed that there had been a decline in incidents of stone-pelting. He said night curfew had been lifted in most places in the Valley barring a few places. He also claimed that schools had been functioning normally as 99.48 per cent of students of class XI wrote their exams.

As Reddy was narrating details of the situation to drive home his point, Congress leader of Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Choudhury stood up amid a din and said the minister had given an impression as if Ram Rajya had been established in Jammu and Kashmir.

Directing his ire towards Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Adhir Ranjan wanted to know from him as to what had happened to his promise that normalcy would be restored to the Union Territory at the earliest.

“What is the parameter of normalcy? I don’t know. According to traders, they have suffered a loss of rupees 10,000 crore,” Choudhury said as Shah asked him to identify the traders.

The Congress leader in the House said, “While political leaders from Europe were allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir our MPs were not allowed.” He wanted to know when the political leaders in J&K jails will be released. He asked the government to give details of the numbers of arrested politicians.

Responding to Choudhury, Shah reiterated that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir Valley had returned to normal. In a jibe at the Congress, he said the Congress had earlier predicted bloodbath, years of curfew but nothing of that kind had happened in J&K.  He said if the Congress analysis of normal was political activities, Panchayat level and block level polls had been held with no incidents of any violence.

About jailed political prisoners Shah said, “We need not nor desire to keep them (in prison) a day more than necessary. When the local administration decides to take a call on the matter they will be released,” he said and then turning to the Congress benches said, “The J&K leaders have been in jail for the last 5-6 months. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister had kept the father of Farooq Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah in prison for 11 years. We don’t want to follow in her (Indira’s) footsteps. We don’t interfere in local administration works as the Congress is wont to. We are also concerned about the jailed leaders,” Shah said.