J&K: Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on Article 370 draw sharp criticism

BJP leader and Deputy CM Nirmal Singh has also claimed that Article 370 has done more harm than anything to J&K. His remarks follow Bhagwat’s demand for constitutional amendment

Photo by Indranil Bhoumik/Mint via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s demand that “necessary constitutional amendments” are required for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be “completely assimilated” with the rest of the country, has drawn sharp critical reactions from opposition mainstream political parties, separatists and local media.

After Bhagwat, BJP leader and J&K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh also called for abrogation of Article 370, asserting that it was harming Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier, Bhagwat, in his more than hour-long address on Vijayadashmi in Nagpur on Sunday, had said “necessary” constitutional amendments would have to be made for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be "completely assimilated" with the rest of the country.

The RSS has long demanded abrogation of the Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, but Bhagwat did not make any reference to it in his speech.

Opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir, however, reacted sharply on Monday to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's remarks that constitutional amendments on Kashmir were needed, saying any move to tamper with Article 370 would be fraught with “dangerous consequences”.

“Under the ambit of Indian constitution, the RSS chief is a nobody unless he himself contests elections and is voted by people to represent what he may claim his constituency. Where in the Constitution of India is it written that a non-elected individual who does not represent any constituency legitimized by a fair election become a factor either in policy making or in legislation?” questioned an editorial in the Rising Kashmir.

“PDP secured most of the seats in state assembly election and the party stitched an alliance and formed a government with state BJP only after formalizing Agenda of Alliance (AoA). Where in the AoA is it mentioned that the state BJP will rake up the issue of revoking Article 370? It is quite the opposite of it, the deputy Chief Minister must read the 10th point of AoA which says: ‘While recognising the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of J&K, considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K, including the special status in the Constitution of India’,” the editorial read.

Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani denounced the BJP-PDP coalition for “their unceasing attempts to tamper with the state's political, cultural, economic and historical status.”

In a statement, Geelani said, “The RSS chief and all those affiliated with ruling parties both in the state and New Delhi, through their unwise statements....All these steps and their attempts illustrate that India does not want to resolve the Kashmir issue through political means.”

The moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement, “Bhagwat should go through history and he will come to know that Kashmir is a dispute acknowledged by the world's highest forum United Nations.”

Another separatist leader, Yasin Malik said: “integrating J&K with India through constitutional measures and military operation and oppression, can only be termed as day dreaming and illogical. Instead, he (Bhagwat) ponder over his own anti-Muslim, anti-Dalit and anti-minority policies which are bound to disintegrate his India.”

“Trampling state subject law, giving permanent citizenship to west Pakistan refugees or any other tactics to change the demography and Muslim character of this land will meet a stiff resistance and we will not shy away from spilling our blood while defending our identity and freedom,” Malik was quoted saying.

Reacting to the Sangh leader's demand, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), in a statement, said, “Bhagwat's remarks about the need for constitutional amendments....are unfortunate and unacceptable. Any kind of tinkering with the special status of J-K is fraught with dangerous consequences.”

The Congress blamed the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) for a “complete sell-out to the BJP-RSS for the sake of remaining in power”. The statement alleged that both the coalition partners, from the day they assumed power, were bent upon repealing the special status, which works as a bridge between the Centre and the state.

Criticising the RSS chief's comments, NC state spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said Jammu and Kashmir's special status was the only constitutional bridge that connected the state to the rest of the country.

The RSS chief “should stop misleading the people to stoke passions in the face of growing criticism over the drastic economic slowdown in the country”, Mattu said. “While the RSS and the BJP have repeatedly made their intentions absolutely clear with regard to Article 35-A and Article 370, it is the PDP's apologetic silence that is a matter of grave concern and is indicative of a complete sell- out that could have dangerous and far-reaching implications for the state and its people,” he alleged.

Article 35A allows the state legislature to define “permanent residents”. Senior CPIM leader and MLA from Kulgam, MY Tarigami, said the RSS chief's statement was an eye opener for those “who still have illusions about the intentions of the RSS and its affiliates”.

“It is not surprising because RSS and its political affiliates, Bhartiya Jan Sangh and BJP, have a consistent position about Article 370. The special status of Jammu and Kashmir was always an eyesore for them,” he said.

Though Bhagwat did not mention it, but the RSS and the BJP have long demanded abrogation of the Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a plea demanding repeal of Article 35A, which allows the state legislature to define “permanent residents”.

(With inputs from PTI)

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