Indian security personnel stop people during restrictions in Srinagar on Saturday. -AFP
Article 370 was the divide between India and Kashmir and it would now be gone forever, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said yesterday, replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the government's move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories. After clearing both houses of parliament, the bill to split Jammu and Kashmir will soon be law.
"Article 370 had put doubts in the mind of people that Kashmir is a part of India," the Home Minister said. In a sharp rejoinder to Congress leader Manish Tewari's comments describing the Kashmir announcement as a "black day" for India, Amit Shah referred to the Emergency of 1975 and said: "Black Day is not today but it was then. During the Emergency, you made all of India into a Union Territory. So don't preach to us."
Replying to another Congress leader, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who embarrassed his party by appearing to say Article 370 was not an internal matter, Amit Shah said it was Jawaharlal Nehru who took Kashmir to the United Nation and were it not for him, then PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) would not have existed.
"Who took Kashmir to the United Nations, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru? History will decide if this decision (to revoke special status under Article 370) is right or not, but whenever it will be discussed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be remembered by the people," said Amit Shah. The Prime Minister was present in the Lok Sabha.
"Neither the BJP nor Narendra Modi can give up PoK. Our claim on every part of PoK remains as strong as it was earlier," he said.
He also ruled out talks with separatists, describing them as Pakistan sympathizers. "What is the need to keep talking? We don't want to talk to Hurriyat, but we are ready to speak to the people of Kashmir," he said.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha moments after his speech. Yesterday, it cruised through the Rajya Sabha, where the government is short of a majority, with several opposition parties walking out and others siding with the government, like Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress, N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party and Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party.
In response to AIMIM lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi's remarks that the government was making a monumental mistake, Amit Shah said: "This is not a historical blunder...we are rectifying a historical blunder."
He assured: "The people of the Valley are our own. We want to embrace them because they have given the maximum sacrifice and faced the maximum pain. Over 41,500 people of the state have been killed since 1989 only because of Section 370... What did we get from Article 370? It gave unemployment and kept far from education. It only encouraged separatism pressed by Pakistan."
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