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Omar & RSS cross swords

Srinagar, May 28: The war of words over Article 370 escalated today after the RSS hit out at chief minister Omar Abdullah for saying any move to scrap the special status for Jammu and Kashmir would hit the country’s integrity.

The controversy erupted yesterday after the lone Union minister from the state, Jitendra Singh, was quoted as saying the process to repeal the Article, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had begun. Singh, a junior minister, later claimed he had been misquoted.

His purported remarks, however, drew a strong reaction from Omar, who said Kashmir would cease to be a part of India if Article 370 was abrogated because it was the only constitutional link between the state and the rest of India.

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav tweeted today: “J&K won’t be part of India? Is Omar thinking it’s his parental estate? 370 or no 370, J&K has been and always will be an integral part of India.”

Omar retorted that he was a citizen of the state and had every right to speak for its rights.

The National Conference president and Omar’s father, Farooq Abdullah, chaired an emergency meeting of the ruling party’s core group to discuss the development.

“The process of scrapping Article 370... is the most dangerous move having likely potential of hitting the very integrity of the country,” the core group resolved.

The move was “an attempt to take the state to the pre-1947 situation, thereby putting a question mark on the accession of Jammu and Kashmir as also demolishing the bridge between the state and the rest of the country”, it said.

“The core group resolved in one voice to take this battle to its logical conclusion and fight tooth and nail no matter what the consequence. It is the people of Jammu and Kashmir only who have to decide what is best for them and it cannot be enforced on them by radical communal forces whose agenda in the past 60 years has been to communalise and polarise the society,” the party spokesperson said.

Omar later warned that any move to scrap the Article would have dangerous consequences. “You want to strengthen your relations with us but this is not the way to do it. This is a way to further widen the gulf,” he warned.

Article 370 cannot be removed unless Jammu and Kashmir’s constituent assembly is recalled, the chief minister said. “It was the constituent assembly that ratified the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India. If you want to reopen this issue (of accession), please do it,” he told reporters, addressing the BJP.

State Congress chief Saifuddin Soz said those who seek a debate on Article 370 are making a basic mistake of not appreciating that this Article is an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India”. “It can neither be amended nor abrogated by any authority in India unless the people of Jammu and Kashmir themselves want it,” he said.

People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in the minister.