Deploring the “unilateral”, “brazen” and “undemocratic” way in which Article 370 was revoked, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), in a statement on Tuesday, said this provision that accorded special powers to Jammu and Kashmir should have been “honoured” till it was amended constitutionally after due consultation.
The statement came after a four-hour stormy meeting which brought to the fore deep divisions in the party on the issue.
CWC members Jyotiraditya Scindia and Deepender Hooda had earlier made public comments supporting the Centre’s move.
There have been equally strong voices against it, including from former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.
Former Home Minister P. Chidambaram who read out the statement said that it was a 'unanimous' one. Every principle of Constitutional law, States’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated, the statement said.
Article 370 was conceived and crafted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, assisted by N. Gopalaswamy Iyengar and V.P. Menon and is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu & Kashmir and India, the Congress said. “It deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India,” CWC resolution said.
The government’s decision will have grave implications beyond J&K and calls into question the very idea of India being a Union of States.
The CWC severely criticised the bifurcation and changing the status of the state to Union Territory.
In the face of the gaffe made by its floor leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, the CWC asserted that all the issues pertaining to J&K are internal matters of India and no outside interference will be tolerated.
After keeping silent for more than 24 hours after the government brought in legislation revoking Article 370 the outgoing Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a tweet questioned the government's decision to detain National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. He did not comment on the merit of the decision.
“Kashmir’s mainstream political leaders have been jailed at secret locations. This is unconstitutional and undemocratic. It’s also short-sighted and foolish because it will allow terrorists to fill the leadership vacuum created by GOI. The imprisoned leaders must be released,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Just an hour before the working committee was to meet former MP Jyotiraditya Scindia in a tweet said, “I support the move on Jammu &Kashmir and Ladakh and its full integration into the Union of India. Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this.”
On Monday, another CWC member Deepender Hooda on Monday in a tweet said that the move will benefit the State. “My personal view is that there isn’t a need to have Article 370 in the 21st century. The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment,” he said.
Earlier, former General Secretary (Organisation) Janardhan Diwedi and former Mumbai Congress Chief Milind Deora too had come out in support.
Mr. Azad had led the charge in the Rajya Sabha on Monday. Just minutes after Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Bill, Mr. Azad stormed into the well of the House along with other Opposition parties and sat there for more than two hours while the debate was going on. He equated the decision to cutting the very head of the Indian nation.
“Jammu & Kashmir joined the Indian Union as a State. The BJP government’s ill-thought decision of dividing the State and downgrading the strategically sensitive State is a first in History and changes geography and humiliates the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr. Sharma said in a tweet in the middle of the meeting.
In a Parliamentary Party meeting on Tuesday morning of the Lok Sabha MPs sources said that UPA chairperson stressed that the party's opposition is on the manner in which the BJP government brought in the legislation. She did not clarify her own position on whether or not she is opposed to the revoking of Article 370 itself.