Rahul Gandhi accepts J&K invite, says no to helicopter

Deccan Chronicle

New Delhi: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday took up Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik's bait of sending a helicopter for him to visit the Valley, but said he didn't need an aircraft, just the freedom for him along with other Opposition leaders to be allowed to travel unimpeded across the Valley

The Congress also asked the government to immediately begin a political dialogue and take all Opposition parties into confidence on what was happening in the region.

Mr Malik had on Monday invited Mr Gandhi to visit J&K, saying he would send an aircraft for him, after the Congress leader said: 'People were dying in the Valley and the situation is not normal, as the government claims.'

The Wayanad MP, now on a visit to his constituency, was quick to respond Tuesday, tweeting: '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 and meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers stationed over there.'

In New Delhi, Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said, 'The reaction by the governor only to Rahul Gandhi is not enough. Mr Gandhi does not need his hospitality. All Opposition parties should be asked to go to Kashmir.'

'We demand that the government take the first step and start an immediate political dialogue in which all the Opposition parties should be taken into confidence,' he said, adding for this it was also important that leaders and former chief ministers now in detention are released.

Mr Sharma said that it was high-time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah call an all-party meeting and take all the Opposition leaders into confidence.

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