Press Trust of India
New Delhi, 6 January
A controversy erupted today over Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan’s comments on deployment of Army in Jammu and Kashmir which were slammed by parties across the political divide even as his party attempted to control damage.
Aam Aadmi Party convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal distanced himself from Mr Bhushan’s remarks, saying the deployment of army within the country should be decided on the basis of internal security threat.
Mr Bhushan had said that deployment of the military in Jammu and Kashmir should be undertaken with the consent of people of the state.
The remarks were flayed by parties like BJP and Congress. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also said there was no need for a referendum on such issues.
“Such ill-advised ideas must always be rejected outrightly. They can only disturb India’s security environment and a disturbed environment disturbs politics, it disturbs sovereignity and it disturbs economy,” BJP leader Arun Jaitley said. He said it was “regrettable” that a party with national ambitions was adopting a position similar to that of Pakistan and the separatists hostile to India’s interests.
Asserting that issues of national security cannot be decided by populism or referendum, he hoped that sensible elements in AAP will seek to reverse this “soft” stand, otherwise “the slope downwards will be faster than the movement upwards”.
Congress leader Ambika Soni also hit out at Mr Bhushan, saying such issues have “repercussions and fallouts which you can’t imagine”.
She expressed surprise at the “flippant manner” in which Mr Bhushan voiced his views pertaining to the sensitive state.
Mr Abdullah said, “Reduction of the footprint of security forces & phased revocation of AFSPA doesn’t need a referendum, just a courageous statesman to decide. Governments get a mandate to govern & decide, they don’t need to conduct a referendum before every tricky decision. Leaders must lead.”
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said that AAP should “wake up to the reality that they are a political party” and “no longer an NGO or commentators”.
He said AAP has “pan-India ambitions” and its leaders should be careful in making statements.
“We are dealing with a very sensitive issue. When everyone agrees that the presence of army has been critical in controlling terrorism, I advise AAP that they should realise that they cannot be irresponsible and make such statements,” he said.
BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi attacked AAP saying this is its first national agenda with a “separatist mindset” and cautioned against “other things to come” from it.
He said referendum is the first step which will followed by demands for a separate Jammu and Kashmir. “The separatists are making such demands with a ‘jihadi’ mindset, but the same thing is being said with a ‘gentle face’ by AAP,” he said.
Mr Jaitley pointed out that Bhushan had two years ago suggested a plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir where people must be free to decide whether they wish to stay with India or otherwise.
The BJP leader said after much difficulty the issue of plebiscite which was internationalised by Pakistan was linked to the territory wrongfully occupied by Pakistan and today it is no longer a part of either the international agenda, a United Nations process or even the Indo-Pak bilateral talks.
He said de-militarisation of the Valley can take place only after elimination of terrorism and dismantling of terrorist infrastructure. “The Army presence till then is necessary to protect both the territory and the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
The BJP leader said defence of India is a subject exclusively in the central government’s domain, as it is neither a state subject nor a subject to be handled at the municipal level.