Former finance minister P Chidambaram, who walked out of Tihar Jail last night, today opened his first press conference after 105 days in prison with a note of solidarity for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, one of the country's two newest Union Territories. The other is Ladakh.
"As I stepped out and breathed the air of freedom at 8 pm last night, my first thought and prayers were for the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir valley who have been denied their basic freedom since August 4," Mr Chidambaram told reporters, referring to the centre's move to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution that gave autonomy to the erstwhile state.
"I am particularly concerned about the political leaders who have been detained without charges. Freedom is indivisible. If we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom," he said. "If the government allows me, I will definitely visit Jammu and Kashmir," Mr Chidambaram added.
Hundreds of political leaders including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, with whose Peoples Democratic Party the BJP at one time formed government in Jammu and Kashmir, are still under arrest.
The centre maintains the continued restrictions on the political leaders are necessary to prevent them from fanning trouble.
The opposition Congress has been raising in parliament the issue of prolonged political detention in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging that the centre is not freeing National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah to stop him from speaking up.
"Farooq Abdullah has been illegally kept under detention. He should be allowed to attend the parliament session," Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad had told reporters after an all-party meeting last month. "How can a parliamentarian be detained illegally? He should be allowed to attend Parliament," said Mr Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the upper house, where Farooq Abdullah is a member.
P Chidambaram also pummelled the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the state of the country's economy. The former finance minister said the Modi government is "incompetent to manage the economy".
The Reserve Bank of India's six-member Monetary Policy Committee has unanimously kept the lending rate or repo rate unchanged at 5.15 per cent. Repo rate is the key interest rate at which the RBI lends short-term funds to commercial banks.
The MPC has also lowered its Gross Domestic Product growth forecast to 5 per cent from 6.1 per cent for the current fiscal.
"We will be lucky to end the year if growth touches 5 per cent. Please remember Dr Arvind Subramanian's caution that 5 per cent under this government, because of suspect methodology, is not really 5 per cent but less by about 1.5 per cent," Mr Chidambaram said.
Mr Chidambaram was arrested on August 21 by the CBI, which is investigating allegations that as Finance Minister of the country in 2007, he facilitated a huge infusion of foreign funds into the company INX Media founded by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea.
The Enforcement Directorate arrested him on October 16 in connection with money-laundering allegations linked to the case. Mr Chidambaram is accused of creating a web of shell companies and several foreign bank accounts to launder money.