Union minister for transport and shipping Nitin Gadkari has joined the debate over Article 370, saying that the development of Jammu & Kashmir got blocked due to the constitutional provision that bestows a quasi-Indian status on the State. “The development of Jammu & Kashmir could not take off due to Article 370. There is a tremendous scope for development of the State (Jammu & Kashmir) and a number of possibilities for tourism (exists). Hence, the new government is keen to develop the State in a better way,” Gadkari told reporters after visiting “Deekshabhoomi” in Nagpur where he paid tributes to Babasaheb Ambedkar.
The State’s ruling National Conference and its coalition partner, the Congress, as well as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reacted strongly to Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh’s statement that talks had been started with stakeholders to begin the revocation process.
Abdullah asked the central government to come clean on the “stakeholders” it was talking to on the contentious issue.
“We will oppose the move tooth and nail. Since it is the minister of state in the PMO talking, it is a policy matter. They (central government) must come clean and share who are the stakeholders they have talked to,” he told journalists in Srinagar.
Yesterday, soon after Jitendra Singh’s statement, Abdullah said: “Jammu and Kashmir would not be part of India if Article 370, which grants special status to the state, is revoked.”
“Mark my words & save this tweet — long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist,” he had tweeted.
State Opposition PDP chief and Anantnag MP Mehbooba Mufti condemned the statement of Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, saying it has the potential to divide Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines and trigger another partition. “Though the minister has retracted it, we still condemn the statement because there were apprehensions that the BJP government, especially with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi, will be divisive. But the PM had made a very good start by inviting SAARC leaders to the swearing-in ceremony. He tried to connect with the neighbours in spite of many problems and conflicts, so we appreciated that. Whereas the PM was on one hand trying to connect with the neighbours and was having talks with (Pakistan Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif, and it was a reconciliatory measure, on the other hand, his minister issued a statement which has a potential to divide the state of Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines,” Mehbooba told reporters in Srinagar.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) hit back at Abdullah, saying the state would remain an integral part of India irrespective of Article 370 being repealed or not. “J&K won’t be part of India? Is Omar thinking it’s his parental estate? (Article) 370 or no 370, J&K has been and will always be an integral part of India,” RSS spokesman Ram Madhav tweeted.
The Indian National Congress has pitched in, too, with the argument that history is irreversible. There should be a basic understanding of the Constitution before any statement is made on such a “sensitive issue”, party leader Manish Tewari said a day after the MoS stoked the controversy. “Article 370 (3) read with Art 370 (2) clarifies 370 cannot be repealed without the consent of the Constituent Assembly which does not exist. No brainer,” Tewari tweeted. He said, “Article 370 makes it very clear if you read Article 370’s section 3 that the President of India can only by notification repeal it if he has the explicit consent of the Constituent Assembly. And the Constituent Assembly has prorogued and ceased to exist. It has been dissolved and it cannot be resurrected. So obviously a bare read of the Constitutional provisions makes it clear that it is not possible even if there is a desire to repeal Article 370… There should be a basic understanding of the Constitution before any articulation is done or any statement is made on such a sensitive issue.”
Jagmohan, Former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and Union Minister, has joined the debate. In an interview to sympathiser of India’s right wing Claude Arpi, he said, “The poorest State in India is Bihar, but today Kashmir gets 11 times more Central assistance than Bihar. If ‘self-rule’ means self-sufficiency, all this support from the Central government will stop. But the problem is that nobody, none of the Kashmiris leaders will tell you this. If you ask them, they will say, ‘the finances will come’, but they will remain vague. That is for development.
Then Non Plan Expenditure, the day to day expenses like the salaries [of the government employees]. If tomorrow Kashmir is ‘de-linked’ from India except for External Affairs, Communications and Defence, the finances will not be provided anymore.
The next question is ‘who will pay?’
Will the Americans do it? Nobody is able to answer these questions. Some say, India should continue to finance ‘self-ruled’ Kashmir, but if tomorrow the ‘self-ruled’ government declare themselves independent or an Islamic State, will India, a secular State continue to finance a theocratic State?
There are so many contradictions in these proposals; it is what people do not understand. There are so many loopholes.
So far is Pakistan concerned, it is not even a democracy [and they are speaking of ‘self-rule’].”