The row over Article 370 escalated on Wednesday with Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asking the Centre to make known the ‘stakeholders’ it was talking to for repealing special status to Jammu and Kashmir and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh saying no one should take any offence to a call for a debate.
Omar also made it clear that Article 370 cannot be abrogated till the Constituent Assembly, which approved Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, is recalled, a day after Minister of State Jitendra Singh stirred a controversy by declaring that the new government has started the process for repealing the provision. Singh has since said he has been ‘misquoted’.
The core group of the ruling Ruling National Conference also met in Srinagar and condemned Singh’s remarks, saying it has hurt the people of Jammu and Kashmir and amounts to endangering the security and the integrity of the country.
Contending that it was impossible for the Bharatiya Janata Party government to abrogate Article 370, Omar said confusion was being deliberately created on the issue which would further alienate the people of the state.
“They (BJP government at the Centre) cannot abrogate Article 370 till the Constituent Assembly is recalled. The Constituent Assembly approved accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India. If you want to raise the question once again, then you need to bring the Constituent Assembly and then we will talk,” Omar told reporters in Srinagar.
Omar said Singh had stated that talks with stakeholders had been started and sought to know who they were. “I want to know with whom they have started talking. You said you are talking to stakeholders. I am one of the stakeholders by being the chief minister of the state. I am an elected representative of the people. Nobody from my party talked to you. I have not heard from any political party that talks had been held with them. Then which stakeholder you have talked to?” he said.
Abdullah’s party, the National Conference, also took up the issue, condemning Singh for his remarks. NC leader Ali Mohammad Sagar said Singh’s remarks have hurt the people of the state and amount to endangering the security and integrity of the country. “The core group of the party met and condemned the statement of the MoS in strong words. The meeting concluded the statement amounts to endangering the country’s security and integrity,” said Sagar.
Reacting to Omar’s remarks that Jammu and Kashmir won’t be part of India or Article 370 that grants special status to the state will still exist, senior RSS leader Ram Madhav said the state will always be an integral part of India with or without the provision.
Madhav also asked whether the chief minister thought the state was his ‘parental estate’ and said no one should take any offence to any ‘open-ended debate’ on Article 370.
Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should reassure people of Jammu and Kashmir that Article 370 will not be tinkered with, warning that Singh’s remarks will disrupt peace.
Congress cautioned against any trigger happy reactions. “Article 370 (3) read with Art 370 (2) clarifies 370 cannot be repealed without consent of constituent assembly which does not exist. No brainer,” Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted.