Congress ‘misadventure’ alert
The Congress on Saturday warned the Narendra Modi government against any misadventure in Jammu and Kashmir while promising to strongly oppose any change in the constitutional scheme.
Describing the cancellation of the Amarnath Yatra as “shocking” and the sudden mobilisation of forces that triggered deep anxiety and panic in Kashmir as “unprecedented”, the party alleged that a crisis was being sought to be created as the situation was not so alarming.
The Congress also expressed concern at the miseries that such drastic moves could perpetrate on the local population and the hurt it would cause to the religious sentiments of lakhs of Shiva devotees.
Responding to a question about rumours about the possible scrapping of Article 35A, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and delimitation — two issues that are sub judice — and the possibility of trifurcation of the state, former home minister P. Chidambaram said: “We don’t wish to anticipate what misadventure this government is planning to embark on. But indications from the home ministry suggest they are preparing for a misadventure. But any misadventure will be fraught with serious legal and political consequences.”
The Congress veteran added: “Some of these issues are in the Supreme Court. The government is taking them lightly. They are very wrong if they think they can push it. They have a wrong understanding of the Constitution. There are provisions that you can make but can’t unmake. The basic nature of some provisions is lost on this government. We warn them not to embark on any misadventure.”
Apart from Chidambaram, the others present at the media conference were senior leader Anand Sharma; former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad; the Congress general secretary in charge of the state, Ambika Soni; and Dr Karan Singh, a key player in Kashmir politics who is the son of Maharaja Hari Singh who decided on the state’s accession to India.
“What is happening is of concern to the entire country. We will oppose any change in the certain constitutional guarantees given to Kashmir,” Sharma said.
He added: “Parliament is in session. The government should have taken the leaders of major political parties into confidence. A crisis is sought to be created in the state; this will destroy their economy. The Congress will stand with the people of Kashmir in their grief.”
The presence of 88-year-old Karan Singh, the first sadar-e-riyasat (president of the state), underlined the gravity of the situation as he does not attend any public programme these days.
An anguished Singh said: “In my 70 years in public life, I have seen many ups and downs but what is happening today had never happened. I am surprised the Amarnath Yatra has been stopped midway. The sacred chhadi (stick) is worshipped and sent to the cave, which has not happened so far. I tried in vain to contact the Mahant who does it. If the chhadi does not reach the cave, it will not be appreciated by Hindu devotees.”
He added: “What is the reason? We are all baffled. Tourists are ordered to leave; they are the lifeline of Kashmir. An atmosphere of fear and apprehension has gripped the Valley. I can’t see any reason for so much forces; I am making a humble request to the government — don’t do this. We are all nationalists. We have made sacrifices. If there is a problem, share with us.”
Azad lamented that the efforts of successive governments, including that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the sacrifices of the army, paramilitary forces and the people of Kashmir that had helped in bringing normality to the Valley were being nullified.
“This government is destroying everything for politics; they plan for Kashmir keeping in mind the political gains elsewhere in the country. Why so much obsession with 35A? There are restrictions in states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and (those in) the Northeast on buying land by outsiders,” Azad said.
Article 35A gives exclusive rights over land and jobs to people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Azad added: “Except the Pulwama attack, terror incidents this year have been minimal. There was no apparent need for such a massive mobilisation of forces and (the issuance of) advisories that caused panic. All the SPs were asked to report on the equipment to deal with riots and were informed of additional forces being sent to districts. They say a rifle and landmines were found. Hundreds of arms and landmines are recovered every year, even attacks happen, but such steps are never taken.”
Giving details, Azad said: “In 2000, 89 pilgrims and civilians were killed but the yatra was suspended only for a couple of days. Tourists were never asked to go back. Today, buses were provided by the government to evacuate students from central universities. Thousands of people are stranded at bus stands and the airport. Look at the social media in Kashmir and you will realise the extent of panic. The pilgrims and tourists are saying the local people are with them but this government is creating fear and hatred.”
The Kashmir strategy group of the Congress met on Friday night under the leadership of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed deep concern over the situation. The group also discussed the widespread fear and apprehension in the minds of the people about abolition of Articles 35A and 370.