Jammu- Alleging that the BJP has created a wedge between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party wants early restoration of statehood and assembly polls in the Union territory.
He said the Congress’ position on Article 370 is the same as was declared by the Congress working committee after the constitutional provision was revoked by the BJP-led government in August 2019.
Two days after the Centre’s move, the Congress working committee had deplored the “unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic” manner in which provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution were abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union territories.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 7 last year, is currently in Jammu and Kashmir for its final phase.
On not extending an invitation to Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad to join the yatra and former minister Lal Singh not being given a chair on the stage to mark the entry of the march into J&K, Gandhi said, “Singh supported the yatra and we appreciate his sentiment. 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-ji on that side.” “My respects to Ghulam Nabi-ji and I apologise for any hurt that we may have caused either to Lal Singh-ji or Ghulam Nabi Azad-ji,” 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.
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 (Kashmir and Jammu 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 told reporters here.
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 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.”
‘Yatra Has Changed Narrative In Country’
Congress leader said his Bharat Jodo Yatra has achieved success in “changing the narrative” in the country and brought crores of people together to denounce hatred and spread the message of love.
He alleged that the BJP and the RSS have created an atmosphere of hatred in the country and said suppressing or frightening people cannot stop the truth from coming out.
“The yatra has achieved something fundamental, very powerful and what the yatra has done cannot be changed. It has shown that there are two visions of India, one is hate-filled, arrogant and cowardly and another is love-filled, embracing and brave. It (yatra) has made these two visions absolutely crystal clear,” Gandhi told a press conference here.
“Millions of people have walked in support of this yatra, which has changed the narrative in the country. The fundamental fact is that the yatra has been successful and brought India together and shown Indian people believe much more in love and affection,” Gandhi said.
He said the sole aim of the yatra is to unite the people against the atmosphere of hatred “created by the BJP and the RSS across the country” and concentration of wealth to a chosen few resulting in inflation and unemployment.
“We have a good yatra which is concluding in the next few days. We learnt a lot from it,” he said.
ON BBC DOCUMENTARY
On the controversial BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’, the Congress leader quoted Hindu religious books and said that the truth cannot be hidden.
“The truth always comes out even if you ban, suppress the press, control the institutions, use CBI, ED. Still, the truth shines bright. It has the nasty habit of coming out. So no amount of banning or frightening people can stop the truth from coming out,” he said.
Responding to a question about the recent statement of the defence minister that Gandhi is spreading hatred to gain power and tarnishing India’s image on international platforms, he said his heart is not filled with hatred.
“I do not understand how the padyatra across the country that unites the people, bringing them together is harming the interests of India. I can see how hatred and violence the Rajnath Singh’s party is spreading, harming communities, castes and genders and defaming the nation,” he said.
The Congress leader said Singh is in a party, where he needs permission from the top leadership to speak on anything. “He has no choice in the matter and it is nice he has expressed his opinion which he has done on the orders from the top.”
Defending his raising political issues and targeting BJP during the ongoing yatra, he said Congress is essentially a political party and political things are going to crop up when you are engaged in such an endeavour.
“People are meeting me and raising their problems. It is now my responsibility to rake up their issues for redressal,” he said.
Gandhi said he has only people and their issues in his mind. “There is a clarity (in my mind) that hatred and violence being spread in the country needs to be removed at any cost. I do not accept that India is a country of hate and violence.”
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