Bharat Jodo Yatra concludes but Rahul remains noncommittal on Article 370 restoration
Congress leader says in Srinagar, “Statehood and restoration of the democratic process in J&K fundamental and very important. Those will be the first steps. The steps that come after that, I don’t want to comment on.”
Written by Manoj C G
The Congress has been ambivalent on the issue of the restoration of Article 370 since the BJP-led Centre scrapped the special status for Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. As the Bharat Jodo Yatra concluded in Srinagar on Sunday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also danced around the issue and placed emphasis on the restoration of statehood and holding elections.
Rahul unfurled the Tricolour at the Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Sunday, marking the conclusion of his cross-country trek that began on September 7, 2022, in Kanyakumari. He traversed 12 states and two union territories and covered 4,080 km.
The unfurling of the national flag and an iteration of his family’s links with Kashmir notwithstanding, Rahul was noncommittal on the restoration of Article 370.
Addressing a press conference, the Congress leader said that Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, faced problems such as unemployment, lack of opportunity, and corruption. “Then there are issues like statehood, representation, voice,” he said. On Article 370, he reiterated that the resolution of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) was clear on the matter.
The Congress in Parliament initially opposed the abrogation of Article 370, but later nuanced its position, perhaps after sensing the public mood and factoring in the views of several leaders.
At a meeting on August 6, 2019, the CWC attacked the government on the manner in which the abrogation was carried out and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into union territories but shied away from demanding the restoration of Article 370.
“The CWC deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution. Every principle of Constitutional law, state rights, parliamentary procedure, and democratic governance was violated,” the Congress said then.
The CWC argued that Article 370 was the constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between Jammu and Kashmir and India in 1947 and said it deserved to be honoured till the time it was amended after consultation with all sections of people and in strict accordance with the Constitution of India.
The Congress briefly joined the Gupkar alliance with the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the People’s Conference and was party to the joint statement issued in August 2020 that said the parties would strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A. It was also part of the Gupkar Declaration of August 5, 2019. But in November 2020, the grand old party declared that it was not part of the Gupkar Alliance or the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
At his press conference, Rahul tried to strike a chord with the people of Kashmir. “I am not happy with what I see in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, I have sadness when I walk through J&K. When I first entered Jammu, a strange idea came into my mind…In some ways, my family descended from J&K and went to Allahabad. And in some strange way, I was making a reverse journey that my ancestors made. So, I felt in a way that I was going home and that was a very powerful feeling I had. I think I have affection towards the people of J&K and I come here with an open heart, with open arms to help in whatever way I can…I was humbled by the reception that we got in Jammu, in Kashmir…I think love and affection and listening is a very very powerful force,” he said.
Responding to a question on how he looked at the promises made by Jawaharlal Nehru, his great-grandfather, to the people of Kashmir, the Congress leader said, “I don’t want to go into commenting on the historical aspect of it…I want to look forward and I come with an open mind and come here with affection.”
When pointed out specifically that the CWC resolution was not clear on whether the Congress would restore Article 370 if voted to power, he said, “My position on 370 and the position taken by the Working Committee is very clear. I will hand you the document..you can read it. That is what our position is.” He had said the same while addressing a press conference in Jammu as well.
Asked whether the restoration of statehood would solve the problems faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir and if India should also be talking to neighbouring countries, he said, “Statehood and the restoration of the democratic process in J&K are fundamental and very important. Those will be the first steps. The steps that come after that, I don’t want to comment on here … All other states in India have an Assembly, have a functioning democratic process…I think it should be restored in J&K as well and also an appropriate solution should be found in Ladakh. Even the Ladakhi people are not happy with what happened.”
He said he was very clear that the “first step in moving forward is the restoration of statehood and restoration of democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. “That to me is step number one,” he added.
Asked whether the Congress, if voted to power, would restore the state laws that had been scrapped after the abrogation of Article 370, Rahul turned to the party’s communications chief Jairam Ramesh, who was with him on the dais. Ramesh said that “all the land rights and the job rights of the local population will be fully protected”.
Rahul added, “One of the main issues that has been coming up here is the fact that people’s land is being taken away from them. We have been very clear on that issue. As far as the restoration of the democratic structure here, we are very clear. Once the Assembly is in place, the Assembly will take those decisions.”
Courtesy : TIE
Note: This news piece was originally published in theindianexpress.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights
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