Democracy, vibrant Assembly should be restored to J&K: Rahul

An Army jawan shakes hand with Rahul Gandhi at Nagrota Garrison during Bharat Jodo Yatra on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
An Army jawan shakes hand with Rahul Gandhi at Nagrota Garrison during Bharat Jodo Yatra on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

‘Cong stand on Art 370 very clear’

Defence forces need not to give any proof

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Jan 24: Stating that Congress Party’s stand was very clear on the Article 370 of the Constitution, All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader and Member Parliament, Rahul Gandhi today said that a full-fledged democracy and vibrant Assembly is needed to be restored to the Jammu and Kashmir.

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Addressing a press conference at Jhajjar Kotli, en-route Kashmir, leading Bharat Jodo Yatra, about 25 kms from here today, Rahul Gandhi said a total democracy and a vibrant Assembly should be restored to the Jammu and Kashmir.
“Statehood restoration is the main demand of the people of this Union Territory besides protection to the land and jobs of the people. The Congress Party assures its full support for the restoration of Statehood and democratic rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Gandhi said.
“The Jammu and Kashmir has been passing through a difficult phase. The BJP and RSS have created a wedge in the society. They have created mistrust and an atmosphere of hatred among the people. Congress Party through its Bharat Jodo Yatra is trying to bridge this gap created by these people (BJP),” Rahul maintained.
The Congress leader said the main aim of the foot- march was to listen to the people and amplify what was in their hearts.
“We love all of you and respect you, and feel that J&K is going through a difficult phase. BJP has created a wedge which is harming both the regions and this gap needs to be bridged. We want to open lakhs of shops selling love in J&K,” he said.
“We have come to listen and understand the people, their pain which is in their hearts and the discomfort. The youth are talking about unemployment, they see no future, there is no industry and farmers are not getting any support,” the former Congress president said.
He said the people need to maintain communal harmony, which is essential for taking the Union Territory forward.
“Nothing is achieved by hatred or violence,” Gandhi said, adding that the Congress wants the restoration of Statehood and Assembly polls as soon as possible.
On being asked whether Congress supports Article 370 for J&K or not, Gandhi quipped, “Congress Party’s stand on this Article is very clear. Party has already cleared its stand in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution adopted after its abrogation. If anybody has doubt he may go through the CWC Resolution,” Gandhi added.
Pertinent to mention here that Congress Working Committee in its meeting held on August 6, 2019 in New Delhi, the next day of abrogation of Article 370, had adopted Resolution— “ 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, States’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated. Article 370 is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu and Kashmir and India. It deserved to be honoured, until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India. J&K acceded to India as one State and no Government has the power to change its status or divide it or reduce it to UT. Congress pledges to stand with the people of J&K and Ladakh and to fight the BJP and its divisive and diabolical agenda with every power in its hands,” the CWC Resolution said.
Snubbing Digvijaya Singh for questioning surgical strikes, Gandhi termed his comments ‘ridiculous’ and said the Armed forces are doing their job ‘exceptionally’ well and they do not need to give any proof.
Gandhi, who faced some pointed questions from the media on Singh’s remarks on surgical strikes and the Pulwama terror attack, said he and the party completely disagree with his remarks.
“There are people who will say ridiculous things during conversation. I am sorry to say so about a senior leader. We have full trust in our Army. If Army performs any task, there is no need to give any proof. I completely disagree with his statement and this is the official position of the Congress party,” he added.
On being asked about action being taken by the Congress against Singh, Gandhi said the Congress is a democratic party and “not a dictatorship”.
“We don’t run our party on the principle of coercion. We don’t appreciate Singh’s personal views. But views of the party are above Digvijaya Singh’s views. The views are generated from the conversation within the party. I would like to assure you that his views are not views that are held by the centre of the party,” Gandhi maintained.
“It is in the culture of the Congress to allow conversations. Some times when those conversations happen and people who have extreme views tell their views. However, in BJP there is no practice of conversation. Once they decide anything then no body can talk after that,” he added.
On not extending an invitation to Democratic Azad Party chairman, Ghulam Nabi Azad to join the Yatra and former Minister Ch Lal Singh not being given a chair on the stage to mark the entry of the march into J&K at Lakhanpur, Gandhi said, “Singh supported the Yatra and we appreciate his sentiments. The people of Ghulam Nabi Azad’s party were on our stage. Ninety per cent of them are already in the Congress. I think, there is only Ghulam Nabi Azad on that side.”
“My respects to Ghulam Nabi and I apologise for any hurt that we may have caused either to Lal Singh or Ghulam Nabi Azad,” he added.
Among various delegations that met him during the march, Gandhi said migrant Kashmiri Pandits clearly told him that they were being used politically and asked him to raise their issues in Parliament.
“The Kashmiri Pandits told me that the BJP was using them as a political weapon and forcibly sending them to Kashmir where they face the threat of targeted killings. They said whatever good had happened to them was done during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government,” he said.
On whether he was satisfied with the security arrangements made by the Government for the Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi said, “It is the responsibility of the Government to protect the Yatris, and I hope they do as good a job as they are capable of doing.”
“Thousands of crores of rupees have been pumped in by the BJP and the RSS systematically to distort my image but the truth always comes out,” Gandhi said on him being derisively referred to as ‘Pappu’ on social media.
The Congress will teach the BJP that truth works in this country and not money, power and arrogance, Gandhi said as his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ continues in its final leg.
“Thousands of crores have been spent to distort my image. This was done systematically by the BJP and its leaders. Thousands of crores can’t hide the truth and you have witnessed it. The truth always comes out,” Gandhi said.
Congress leader pointed out that RSS and the BJP leaders think that anything can be achieved with money and power.
“You can demean anyone, distort anyone’s image, buy any Government, anything can be done with money. But that would not be truth. Truth always pushes aside money and power and this stark reality is becoming evident to the BJP leaders slowly,” he added.
While responding to the remarks of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Gandhi said, “ Its Rajnath’s party that has been creating division in society, spreading fear and hatred among people. It is not the culture of the Congress Party. Moreover, it can’t be his own view point. He only says whatever he is told from the top brass to speak,” Gandhi remarked.
Meanwhile, actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar joined Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra as it resumed from the Nagrota on cold Tuesday morning.
Matondkar, a popular Bollywood star of the 1990s, joined Gandhi shortly after the march started from near the Army garrison around 8 am amid tight security, with Congress workers and supporters lined up on the road along the route to welcome them.
Matondkar (48) had resigned from the Congress in September 2019 after a short association of six months, and joined the Shiv Sena in 2020.
Dressed in a cream-coloured traditional Kashmir Pheran (loose gown) and beanie cap, Matondkar was interacting with Gandhi as they marched along.
Noted author Perumal Murugan and J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani, his predecessor G A Mir, working president Raman Bhalla, former DyCM Tara Chand and former Minister Tariq Hamid Karra also joined them alongside hundreds of others carrying the tricolor in their hands.
A strong Ladakh delegation led by Ladakh Territorial Congress president Nawang Rigzin Jora joined Gandhi at the start of the Yatra at Nagrota and briefed him about the issues and concerns of their people.
The Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 7, entered Jammu and Kashmir from Punjab on Thursday and reached Jammu city on Monday.
The Yatra reached Chanderkote in Ramban this evening after passing through Udhampur and Chenani where people accorded grand welcome. Tomorrow morning, it will leave for Banihal, before its culmination in Srinagar with a grand rally at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium on January 30.