Days after voting for the Aam Aadmi Party to help it form the Delhi government, the Congress criticised the AAP for the controversial remarks of its leader, Prashant Bhushan seeking a referendum in Kashmir on the presence of the Army to deal with internal security.
Though Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal quickly distanced himself from Mr. Bhushan’s suggestion and said the party did not favour such a referendum, the Congress on Monday said the demand was “irresponsible.”
Party spokesman Sanjay Jha said, “The Army’s presence in Kashmir has been critical to stopping infiltration and checking terrorists from making their base here.”
The AAP, he said, was no longer an NGO. It was a political party with “national ambitions” and, therefore, needed to have well-thought views on the economy, foreign policy, national security, and indeed “on sensitive issues like Kashmir.”
For his part, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “Political parties which emerge as a transient reaction to a given situation can be non-ideological. They evolve their ideology as they grow. This can lead to both speculative and serious concerns. The ideological position of the AAP on various issues is not known.”
But Mr. Bhushan, claiming that his comments had been “sensationalised” and quoted “out of context,” said there was “considerable alienation among the people of Kashmir which was primarily because of the human rights excesses by security forces which were protected from prosecution under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.”
What sparked off the controversy was his interview to two television channels on Sunday, where he said, “It is very important for us to win the hearts and minds of the people and prevent alienation. For that, the first thing which needs to be done is to remove the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the Army immunity from human rights violations.”
Army deployment for internal security should be done only with the consent of people, except in cases where rights of minorities need to be protected, he added.
Moving away from his earlier reported views on a plebiscite, in the interview, he said, “the separation of the Kashmir Valley would be against the Indian Constitution,” and added, “it may also cause harm to minorities like Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs.”
This is the third occasion the AAP had to distance itself from Mr. Bhushan’s comments. Right after the party won 28 seats in the Delhi poll and when there was speculation on whether it would form the government, Mr. Bhushan said it could take the BJP’s support if the latter agreed to its demand and indeed “become like the AAP.”
Then too Mr. Kejriwal stated Mr. Bhushan’s suggestion was his “personal view.”
Another AAP leader Kumar Vishwas had to apologise to Janata Dal (United) leader Shohaib Iqbal for hurting the sentiments of the minority community with his comments on Muharram.
At the party’s press briefing, Mr. Vishwas said the reference was to a poem penned by him in 2005. “Now the BJP is culling out all my earlier poems and writings to nit-pick.”