Bengaluru: Congress leader P Chidambaram’s advocacy of greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir prompted a fierce attack on the party by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who accused it on Sunday of “shamelessly” lending its voice to calls for “Kashmir’s azadi”.
“All of a sudden, those who were in power till yesterday have taken a U-turn. Shamelessly, they are making a statement and are lending their voice for Kashmir’s azadi,” Modi told BJP workers in Bengaluru.
Chidambaram, a former home minister, had said in poll-bound Gujarat’s Rajkot that when people of Jammu and Kashmir ask for “azadi”, most of them mean they want greater autonomy.
“The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect the letter and spirit of Article 370, that means they want greater autonomy. My interactions in J-K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all… the overwhelming majority, they want autonomy.”
“Yes, I do,” Chidambaram said when he was asked if he still thinks that Jammu and Kashmir should be given greater autonomy.
Without taking Chidambaram’s name, Modi said, “I am surprised that those who were in power at the Centre, those who were responsible for the country’s internal security and national security (are saying this).”
Noting that Sardar Patel took important decisions for the country’s unity, he said thousands of soldiers have sacrificed their lives for Kashmir.
“The country’s soldiers have sacrificed their lives every moment for the sake of security of the motherland and innocent citizens of Kashmir.
“I want to ask the people of Bengaluru, can the country benefit from such people who are playing politics on the sacrifice of our soldiers? They don’t have any shame in saying this. The Congress party will have to give an answer for this (Chidambaram’s) statement,” he said.
In his impassioned speech, Modi said, “Those bravehearts who have sacrificed their lives, mothers who have lost their sons for the country…that mother is asking the question, that sister who has lost her brother is asking the question, and the child who has lost his father is asking the question.”
But, he said, the Congress was “shamelessly using such language as is used by the separatists in Kashmir. (They are) using the language that is spoken by Pakistan.”
Chidambaram had in July 2016 advocated greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, saying India should restore the “grand bargain” under which Kashmir had acceded by granting a large degree of autonomy to it.
He had warned that otherwise India will have to pay a “heavy price”.
The Congress, however, sought to distance itself from the remarks of Chidambaram on Kashmir, saying the “opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the party”.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and “will always remain so unquestionably.”