After having fiercely opposed the BJP government’s move to scrap special status of Jammu and Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha, the main Opposition Congress saw its efforts against the Bill in the Lok Sabha falling flat as its leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury made remarks that were not in sync with the party’s official stand on the Bill.
“You say it is an internal matter. But it is being monitored since 1948 by the UN. Is that an internal matter? We signed Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration. Was that an internal matter or bilateral?” asked Chowdhury, stunning his party MPs and even the BJP benches.
“You must clarify whether it is the Congress party stand that Kashmir can be monitored by the UN,” Home Minister Amit Shah said.
When Chowdhury repeated the question seeking clarification, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was heard asking “What are you saying?” Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, were visibly upset over Chowdhury’s intervention.
Manish Tewari, who initiated the debate from the Opposition, tried to salvage the situation by slamming the government for not taking the consent of the state Assembly. Citing Article 3 of the Constitution that deals with formation of a new state, Tewari said, “Before forming the state, changing the boundaries, you will have to take consensus of the local government.”
“This is travesty of the Constitution,” Tewari said. “This is not in the spirit of Parliament.”
He asked the government to clarify on the fate of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. He also said it was due to Jawaharlal Nehru that Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad became a part of India, to which BJP had raised objections.
Terming it a “dark day for India’s democracy”, Congress’ Shashi Tharoor said, “You have brought this Bill to this House without consultation with the local parties, with the state legislature out of session for more than six months..” Criticising the massive deployment of forces and arrests of political leaders in the Valley, Tharoor said, “This is a breathtaking betrayal of our democracy and nothing short of legislative authoritarianism.”
Tharoor said the government has opened up space for undemocratic forces by locking up democratic parties and their leaders. “You claim that we were winning the battle against terrorism and perhaps we were. But now we are giving a fresh lease of life to the terrorists. I must say, we are facing a situation in which they can sight a new injustice for them to fight. You have made the mainstream pro-India parties irrelevant and powerless…”
He added, “In the name of unity, you are promoting division; and in the name of prosperity, you are promoting poverty in Kashmir. I feel this is a very sad situation.”
The Congress MP wanted the government to clarify when normalcy would return in Kashmir. “When will Kashmiri parents be able to take their children to school? When will they be able to watch TV? When will they be able to go out and buy food? Then, we will talk.”
Noting that the tradition of consultation and deliberation lies in shreds, he described the latest move as the “political equivalent of demonetisation”. Tharoor emphasised that no one has to teach the Congress about nationalism as it is the original party of nationalism. “We are a large-hearted country… not be a petty (one),” he said.