CONGRESS leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Tuesday stoked a controversy as he sought to know from the Government whether Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter or a bilateral issue, saying the United Nations was monitoring the situation there since 1948. Chowdhury’s remarks drew sharp reactions from the Treasury benches, with Home Minister Amit Shah asking whether this was the official stand of the Congress.
“I have a doubt because you say it is an internal matter. You bifurcated a State but my point is, how can this be an internal matter when the United Nations is monitoring it since 1948? “When we signed the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration, was it an internal matter or a bilateral issue? Few days ago, (External Affairs Minister) S Jaishankar told (US Secretary of State Mike (Pompeo) that this (Kashmir) is a bilateral issue and you don’t interfere in the matter, then how can Jammu and Kashmir be our internal matter,” he asked. Chowdhury also said, “You have to tell whether this issue is bilateral or an international one.” While he was speaking, Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sonia Gandhi looked towards other party MPs, including Rahul Gandhi, gesturing her surprise.
On Chowdhury’s remarks, Women and Child Welfare Minister Smriti Irani said, “You are an Indian. Speak in favour of India.” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad too jumped in and asked, “Adhir ji, what are you saying?” Chowdhury said he merely needed clarification on the issue. Later, the Congress leader, outside the House, said that he was misinterpreted on the issue. Sources said Chowdhury’s clarification came after the top party leadership reportedly expressed unhappiness with his remarks. Initiating the debate on the motions to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and on Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill from the Congress’ side, Manish Tewari tried to trace the origins of Article 370 and said the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir chose to accede with India.
However, there were some special provisions while joining the Union of India, he said. Slamming the Government, he said the Government cannot change the boundaries of the State without consulting the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. “This is travesty of the Constitution (savidhnaik trasti),” Tewari said. “This is not in the spirit of Parliament,” he said and also raised questions over the fate of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Shah sought to know what was the Congress stand on Article 370. To this, Tewari said, “Everything cannot be black and white.
There are 50 shades of grey in between.” He also said it was due to the Jawaharlal Nehru Government that Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad became a part of India. Shah claimed that it was a classic example of discrediting the contribution of first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. If Hyderabad was an integral part of India, then it was only because of Patel, he said. Reacting to Chowdhury’s remarks, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi later hit out at the Congress, saying a “headless Congress” has now also become “brainless.”
“How can you say that Kashmir is not our integral part and it is not our internal issue. Frustrated with losses, the Congress has become mentally bankrupt. Sonia Gandhi was there in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi was there, but no one pulled him up for these comments,” he said. “Headless Congress has also become brainless,” Naqvi said. He said the Congress had a chance to correct its mistakes committed in the past, but it only ended up “darkening the stains of its mistakes.” “The Congress has become headless, but also mindless. I believe that until the strategists of the Congress party will not be aligned with national thought process, then Congress will continue the way it is going,” he said. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra also lashed out over Chowdhury’s remarks, saying it that seemed like Pakistan has sent its representative to Indian Parliament.
“Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary demanding a clarification from the BJP Government as to how Kashmir is an internal matter of India ..Saying Kashmir matter is pending in the UN ...It seems Pakistan send their representative to the Indian Parliament,” Patra said on Twitter. The Government on Monday revoked some provisions of the Article 370 to take away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and proposed bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, a bold and far-reaching decision that seeks to redraw the map and future of a region at the centre of a protracted militancy movement.
Congress, a divided house
A NUMBER of Congress leaders across the country have gone against the party’s stand in Parliament on abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir by supporting the Centre’s move and a Bill to bifurcate the State. The Congress has strongly opposed the move and the Bill to bifurcate the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories. Going against the party’s stand, senior Congress leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Deepender Hooda have voiced support to the move. In an embarrassment to the Congress, another leader Anil Shastri said the grand old party should sense the mood of the people before taking a stand, noting that they were with the Government on this.
Dwivedi welcomed the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, saying even though it came late, a historical mistake had been corrected. Scindia said he supported the move on Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and the state’s full integration into the Union of India, adding that it was in the interest of the country. “I support the move on #JammuAndKashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into union of India. “Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this,” he said on Twitter. Shastri also said on Twitter, “Congress must sense the mood of the people and then take a stand. The people are totally with the government on this issue.
We opposed Mandal and lost UP and Bihar and should not risk now of losing India.” Hooda contended that the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir “is in the interest of national integrity”. Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora said it was “very unfortunate” that Article 370 was being converted into a “liberal vs conservative debate”. “Parties should put aside ideological fixations & debate what’s best for India’s sovereignty and federalism, peace in J&K, jobs for Kashmiri youth and justice for Kashmiri Pandits,” he said in a tweet. “Abolishing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution could well be dubbed Modi Sarkar 2.0’s demonetisation moment.
“For the sake of peace and development in Jammu & Kashmir, I hope this decision plays out more favourably than demonetisation did,” Deora noted. Dwivedi said it was a matter of national satisfaction that a “mistake” made at the time of Independence was corrected. He added that after Independence, many freedom fighters did not want Article 370 to remain in place and cited the example of Ram Manohar Lohia, under whom he had his political training and who was against Article 370. “This is a matter of satisfaction for the nation. This historical mistake that happened at the time of Independence has been rectified today, even though late, and is welcomed,” Dwivedi told PTI, while clarifying that his opinion was personal and he was not putting forward his party’s view.
Congress’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Bhubaneshwar Kalita quit his membership in the Upper House of Parliament over the issue after the party asked him to issue a whip to all members for opposing the bill. Hooda said, “I have always maintained that Article 370 should be scrapped. It has no place in the 21st century. Abrogation of this Article is in the interest of national integrity and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. However, the onus of peaceful implementation of this transition in a trustworthy environment lies on the incumbent government.”
Congress MLA from Rae Bareli Aditi Singh also said on Twitter, “United we stand! Jai Hind. #Article370.” When someone reminded her that she was a Congress leader, Singh replied back, saying, “Main ek Hindustani hoon (I am an Indian).” She termed it a historic decision and urged people not to politicise it. Singh’s Assembly segment -- Rae Bareli Sadar -- is a part of UPA chairperson and former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency.