Calling Article 370 of the Constitution “temporary” in nature and “not permanent”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha Friday that the provision extending special status to Jammu and Kashmir was included in the Constitution in this form in agreement with Sheikh Abdullah, the first Prime Minister of Kashmir.
Indicating that there are slim chances of any dialogue with Hurriyat leaders, Shah also said that his government was there to strike terror in the hearts of separatists and reiterated that the government had zero tolerance for terrorism, and vowed it will be rooted out.
Replying to his first debate in Lok Sabha after becoming Home Minister, Shah said, “As far as the question of 370 is concerned, you must know that it is mentioned as temporary in the Constitution and not permanent. And this was done in agreement with Sheikh Abdullah.”
He also blamed the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for Article 370. “As many as 630 princely states acceded to India. None have Article 370. Nehru negotiated with one state and it has Article 370,” he said.
The debate was on a Bill to grant reservation to those living along the International Border in J&K and a resolution to extend President’s Rule in J&K by another six months — both were passed by voice vote.
Incidentally, the BJP has always maintained that it stands for the abrogation of Article 370 and it believes the provision is an impediment to the development of J&K. The party had even mentioned this in its manifesto before 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Several Opposition members had asked if the government will accept the olive branch extended by Hurriyat chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq when he had suggested that the Hurriyat was ready for talks with the government. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, too, had said that the Hurriyat was ready for dialogue with the Centre.
While he did not address the question directly, Shah said, “Those (in Kashmir) who have anti-India thoughts in their minds should fear us. We are not members of the ‘tukde-tukde gang’.”
Speaking of fear in the minds of Kashmiris, he said, “There are two aspects to the debate on fear. Those (in Kashmir) who love peace are happy and enthusiastic that the stranglehold of just three families in Kashmir politics has been broken. But those who harbour feelings of secession in their hearts are scared. They should be scared and this fear is only going to increase.”
Replying to Congress leader Manish Tewari’s assertion that the government must rise above ideology to address the Kashmir issue, Shah said, “But our ideology is already in favour of Bharat Mata. There is no need to rise above it. I believe it is only our ideology which can solve this problem. And Kashmir has been a priority for us from the very first day.”
The Home Minister then spelt out how his government dealt with separatist leaders when previous governments had dithered from taking action for “vote-bank politics”.
“There should be democracy, but we should also talk about what all was done for vote-bank politics. Why was Jamaat-e-Islami allowed to function? What was Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front trying to liberate? You didn’t ban them. We had to do it. You gave security to those who engaged in anti-national talk. We found out they had no threat to their life and removed 919 people from that list. They had got security merely for being anti-national,” he said.
All those who supported terrorism in the Valley, we put them under preventive arrest. There were videos of assembling AK-47 shown in Kashmir jails. Pakistan TV channels were beaming propaganda in the Valley. We stopped all that.”
He also said that he does not deny that previous governments, too, tried to fight terrorism in the Valley. “But there is a difference in the way we fight and the results too. Earlier terrorists were engaged with us our own soil after infiltration from Pakistan. But the Modi government struck at the roots of terror and hit them in their own house,” said Shah.
He said the surgical strikes in 2016 followed by Balakot air strikes earlier this year signalled a paradigm shift in the way the world looked at India’s policy on security.