Cong pledges status quo on constitutional position of J&K
Promises review of AFSPA, DAA, reduction in footprints of Army, CAPFs; unconditional talks with all stakeholders
New Delhi, Apr 02: The Congress on Tuesday said if voted to power it will review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Jammu and Kashmir, and made it clear that nothing will be done to change the constitutional position on the state, a clear reference to Article 370 which the BJP has been long promising to scrap.
Releasing its manifesto for Lok Sabha polls with a dedicated section on J-K, the Congress articulated positions on key issues of the AFSPA, Article 370 and dialogue with stakeholders in Kashmir very divergent from the BJP, which accused the opposition party of making "dangerous promises" and compromising on national security.
Alleging that the BJP government had spread hate and divisiveness in its five year rule, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said "their (the BJP’s) record in J-K is in front of you. Terror casualties are mounting...There will be a major focus on national and internal security". He also promised that his party will work towards uniting India by bringing people together.
In significant proposals, the Congress promised to review the deployment of armed forces, move more troops to the border to stop infiltration completely, reduce the presence of the Army and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in the Valley, and entrust more responsibility to the J&K Police for maintaining law and order.
"The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed," the party said, adding that suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights.
The BJP hit out at the Congress on the proposed amendments in the AFSPA, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying “it compromised national security”.
“The Congress earlier wanted martyr status for jawans, now they want cases against them,” the Union minister said, and alleged that "those who laid their lives for the nation, the Congress wants them to be prosecuted at the behest of relatives of terrorists."
Jaitley alleged that though the party had set up a drafting committee, it appears that some important points related to J-K were drafted by Rahul Gandhi's friends in 'tukde tukde' gang, a reference to the Congress president's visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where a section of students were protesting and allegedly raised anti-India slogans.
Elaborating its vision for J-K, the Congress said it has stood witness to the developments in the state since the Instrument of Accession was signed on October 26, 1947.
Affirming that the whole of J-K is part of India, the party said it also acknowledges the unique history of the state and the unique circumstances under which the state acceded to India that led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution of India.
"Nothing will be done or allowed to change the constitutional position," the party said.
Abrogating Article 370 has long been one of the core promises of the BJP. It grants special status to the state and limits Parliament's power to make laws concerning the state.
The Congress said it has long held the view that dialogue is the only way to understand the aspirations of the people of the three regions of J-K, and find an honourable solution to their issues.
Advocating a "two-pronged" approach in the state if voted to power -- uncompromising firmness on the border and ending infiltration, as well as "absolute fairness" in dealing with the demands of the people to win their hearts and minds.
"Building a Union of states that is India is a project of inclusiveness. J-K and its problems deserve a large-hearted approach that will eschew muscular militarism and legalistic formulations and look for an innovative federal solution," it said.
Pitching for talks without preconditions, the Congress promised a solution through patient dialogue with all stakeholders in the state and said, it will appoint three interlocutors drawn from civil society to facilitate such talks.
In a politically significant pitch, the party also promised free and fair elections to the State Legislative Assembly to be held immediately.
The party expressed deep concern about the cases of discrimination and harassment of students, traders and others belonging to J-K and residing in other states and promised their safety and their right to study or do business.
The party also made a slew of promises for the Northeastern states with the most significant among them being restoring the special category status to them.
The seven-phase Lok Sabha polls will begin on April 11 and the counting of votes will take place on May 23.