NEW DELHI: “Democracy is at stake and we are very very concerned about it. How can you lock 8 million Kashmiris in their homes and talk of democracy? Why have all the political leaders of Kashmir been arrested, why are they not being released?” asked a visibly incensed DMK leader and Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran .

DMK chief MK Stalin has urged all like minded political parties to join his MPs at Jantar Mantar on August 22 to protest against the developments in Kashmir, and demand the release of all political leaders detained by the government. This will be the first such protest by an Opposition party with Stalin having taken a lead in protesting against the Centre’s measures in Kashmir. The Congress and the Trinamool Congress party are the other two to have taken a consistent stand on the issue, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee having discussed Kashmir with Stalin recently.

Maran in an interview to The Citizen was categorical that if this was left unchallenged “it could be Tamil Nadu next. The BJP government might want to bring in someone of their choice in the state, and create the environment similarly to do so.” This is a blow to democracy and federalism, he said. And the DMK “has always stood for democracy, always, and we cannot keep silent now.”

“Under what rule have you arrested the Kashmiri leaders, and are keeping them in detention?” Maran asked.

“The BJP says like we and others do that Emergency was a dark, foul period. But what are they doing in Kashmir now? Was Emergency worse or is this worse?” he asked. Maran pointed out that the DMK had stoutly opposed the Emergency opposed by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, 700 of their cadres had been jailed along with their top leaders including his father. “They say those were the dark days of India, and indeed they were, but what is this?” he said.

“This is not the way to do things. Where are the people, where is their will. If democracy has returned to Kashmir as they claim, where are Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and the rest? “ Maran added.

Asked if Articles 370 and 35A were also going to be an issue for the DMK, Maran said the amendments had been passed by Parliament but “we our position is that this was not done properly as the voice of the Kashmiris whom these affect was not heard. The Kashmiri will was not considered.”

Federalism is a major issue and autonomy for the states will also be raised at the protest called by Stalin. This high handed action against Kashmir, Maran said, has raised genuine concerns in the states as the centre can always use its might to trifle with the peoples will when it wants. “Tell me what would have been the reaction if they had done what has been done to Kashmir to any other state of India”, he asked. “Our leader Stalin has made it clear we will not accept this.”