The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 25 , 2014
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BJP starts social media chatter on 370

New Delhi, June 24: The BJP has begun generating a discourse on the constitutional provision that gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status through a site called “Article 370 Charcha (Discussion) Circle”.

“The purpose is to explain and amplify all aspects of the issues arising out of the application of this special legal provision to the country. The issue before us right now is not if we want to rescind the article or not. The issue is, has the article given something to the people of Jammu and Kashmir or taken away a lot?” said Raman Malik, the national co-convener of the BJP’s communication cell that has conceptualised and executed the project for the discourse, primarily on social media.

Malik, who hails from a Punjab family associated for long with the RSS and the BJP, added: “Our ultimate end is to make people comprehend that the article is replete with drawbacks, such as the absence of a land ceiling act in Jammu and Kashmir that makes for economic and social inequities, a Shariat law that discriminates against women and so on. Let there be a vibrant debate, we will distil the essence from it and prepare the ground to evolve a national consensus on the article’s viability and durability.”

The BJP’s 2014 election manifesto had restated its historical position on abrogating the article, which allows Jammu and Kashmir a separate flag, constitution and penal code, but caveated it with the assurance that the matter would be discussed with all the stakeholders.

The return and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits who were ousted from the Valley in the late eighties and early nineties, too, remains high on the Narendra Modi government’s agenda. Jitendra Singh, the Udhampur MP, was basically placed in the Prime Minister’s Office as a junior minister to help put in place a blueprint, with a timeline, for the Pandits.

However, political sources wondered if their return and resettlement could be achieved if the government simultaneously tried to whip up sentiments against Article 370.

To begin with, Malik’s effort is confined to Facebook after the “charcha” was flagged off on June 2.

The early FB posts reflected the sentiments that were heard in the past from a pro-RSS-BJP constituency, albeit with reality checks. B.N. Gururaj, a Bangalore-based lawyer, admitted that it wasn’t simple to revoke the article because it required a two-thirds recommendation from the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, where roughly 50 per cent or a little more of the members would be from the Valley.

He said: “A presidential order can make the provision inoperative, provided, it is backed by the recommendation of the state Assembly. This can’t be done with strong-arm methods. Consensus has to be developed involving the state government and the MLAs.”

Other contributors were more audacious. Manoj Purohit proposed that a five-year strategy, angled towards Ladakh and Jammu’s development, should be crafted while “we work slow on Kashmir”. “Let them (the people of the Valley) see for themselves the results and fill with envy (sic). Empower the Pandits so much that the Kashmiris feel the guilt and pinch of 370,” he suggested.

The idea was drawn from an old RSS theory of trifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh and ending the Valley’s “supremacy”. It was actively floated in the earlier NDA regime but had fetched no takers in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s team.