NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The controversy that erupted on the first day of the NDA government over Article 370 escalated on Wednesday as the BJP’s ideological mentor, RSS, favoured a debate on the contentious issue.
RSS leader Ram Madhav hit out at Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, saying the state was not his personal fiefdom and will always remain an “integral” part of India. “J&K won’t be a part of India? Is Omar thinking it’s his parental estate? 370 or no 370, J&K has been and will always be an integral part of India,” Madhav tweeted on Wednesday.
He was reacting to Omar’s statement that either Kashmir will not be a part of India or Article 370 will still exist.
The controversy erupted after Jitender Singh, new MoS in the PMO, said there should be debate on the Article which grants special status to the state as it has not benefited anyone. Singh issued a clarification on Tuesday that he had been misquoted. But by then, the debate had started.
Reacting to Singh’s statement, Omar said, “...long after the Modi govt is a distant memory, either J&K won’t be a part of India or Article 370 will still exist. Article 370 is the only constitutional link between J&K and rest of India. Talk of revocation is not just ill-informed, it is irresponsible.”
In turn, Madhav said Omar was trying to make a “mountain out of a molehill”. “There should be no unnecessary controversy over his (Singh’s) remark. The Minister had merely stated the party line. He called for a debate on the usefulness of Article 370. Attempts to create a political controversy are uncalled for,” he said.
But the political storm triggered by Singh’s remark on revocation of Article 370 took a new twist in the state as mainstream political parties closed ranks over the issue.
Omar said, “It is impossible to revoke Article 370 as it will end the state’s accession with India. Article 370 cannot be abrogated till the J&K Constituent Assembly, which approved it in 1951, is recalled.”
Talking to the media in Srinagar, he then added: “It is highly impossible to recall the Constituent Assembly. Who will recall it?” Of the 75 members of the then J&K Constituent Assembly which ratified the state’s accession to India in 1951, only two are alive. He also said Parliament needs the J&K Assembly’s concurrence to apply a law passed by it.
J&K Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti cautioned the BJP that abrogation of Article 370 had the potential to divide J&K on communal lines and “trigger another partition”.
“Even in the past, efforts were made to abolish Article 370. But those attempts failed. It cannot be touched because according to jurists and legal experts, it is the basis of the state’s relation with the rest of the country. If the BJP wants to abolish the basis of the state’s link to India, then the people of J&K have the choice to renegotiate their future,” Mehbooba said, following a meeting of her party on Wednesday.
J&K Congress unit chief and MP Saif-ud-Soz also echoed similar views. “Those who seek a debate on Article 370 are making the basic mistake of not appreciating the fact that this Article is an integral part of the Constitution of India,” he said, adding that “it can neither be abrogated not amended by any authority in India, unless the people of J&K themselves want it. It is the bridge between the state and the Union of India.”
In Delhi, after remaining mum for most part of the debate, Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “The BJP neither has the numbers nor constitutional mandate to take a call on the issue. It is not political feasible, numerically possible or constitutionally desirable.”