Row over India minister’s Kashmir remarks

Federal minister faces criticism after he calls for debate on future status of India-administered Kashmir.

The BJP in its manifesto had said they would work towards abrogation of Article 370 [Raveendran/AFP]

India’s newly inaugurated government led by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has come in for criticism after a junior minister called for a debate on the Article 370 of the constitution that provides special autonomous status to Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pro-India political parties from Kashmir criticised federal minister Jitendra Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party for his remarks, with chief minister of India-administered Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, terming it as “irresponsible”.

“The clarification by Jitendra Singh is not enough, it should come from higher up otherwise seeds of doubt will have been sown in the minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir and you don’t want to do that,” Abdullah told NDTV news channel.

Leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, also criticised Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister’s Office, saying no one could challenge the article as it was included in the Indian constitution.

“Well I think it’s very unfortunate of minister who belongs to Jammu and Kashmir has seen the bloodshed and suffering of the people. He has no better thing to do on the very first day of his ministry and rakes up an issue where he has no control,” she said.

RELATED: Feature: India elections fail to inspire Kashmiris

“No power on this earth has the constitutional authority or the parliament mandate to fiddle with the Article 370 because it is the Indian Constitution; it is the Indian parliament, which has guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370,” the PDP leader said.

Singh, in a damage control exercise, said that that he had been “misquoted,” and that the entire controversy was “baseless”, NDTV reported.

“I seek to clarify that the reports in the media about my statement on Article 370 are misquoted. I have never said anything quoting the Honourable Prime Minister. The controversy is totally baseless,” he said in a statement.

After taking charge, Singh on the very first day stirred controversy, saying that Kashmir has lost more than gained due to the Article 370.

“We have always believed that due to Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir has gained less and suffered more. But abiding by the democracy of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there will be a debate on the issue,” Singh, whose party has called for abrogation of the article from the constitution, said.

Source: News Agencies