NEW DELHI: The BJP on Saturday roundly criticized senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s pitch for greater autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and accused the party of “encouraging separatism” in the restive state.
Chidambaram, a long time advocate of autonomy in Kashmir, had told mediapersons at an interaction yesterday that when Kashmiris demand ‘Azaadi’, it means that they want 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,” he had said.
Chidambaram said the question of greater autonomy should be “seriously examined” and it should be considered in which areas it could be granted.
In a stinging rebuttal to Chidambaram’s statement, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress MP’s remarks were against the national interest.
“The position Congress has taken with regard to ‘Azadi’ or autonomy to be given to Jammu & Kashmir, goes directly contrary to India’s national interest. Congress is deceiving the country, itself and encouraging separatism in J&K. It is hurting India’s national interest,” Jaitley said.
Going on the offensive, the Union minister cited history and said the Congress party’s “flawed policy” since the accession of Kashmir in 1947 was to be held responsible for the dispute in the region.
“Kashmir problem is a Congress legacy. Instead of learning from its past mistakes, Congress wants to precipitate a crisis further for this country,” he charged.
Jaitley further blamed the erstwhile UPA regime for not taking requisite steps to resolve the Kashmir issue and being incapable of dealing with the rapidly proliferating terrorism in the Valley.
“10 years of the UPA Government was a wasted opportunity on J&K. Not a single initiative worked and you had a mass civil disobedience in terms of stone throwing agitation, you had terrorism and terrorists on top, you had normal life being disturbed,” he observed.
The senior BJP leader claimed that the NDA government in the last 3-3.5 years has had considerable difficulty in restablishing the network to tackle this crisis.
“We have succeeded in squeezing the funds for terrorists. The mass protest of stone throwers are by and large over. Intelligence network from village to village has been reestablished, terrorists are on the run and security forces have the upper hand,” he said.
Jaitley also asked the Congress to make it clear if Chidambaram’s statement is the official stand of the party.
(With inputs from PTI)