STATE TIMES NEWS New Delhi: Highlighting that over 100 days have passed since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, senior BJP leader Ram Madhav on Tuesday said he is in favour of the resumption of political engagement in the Union Territory “sooner than later”. Saying that “the sky is the limit” when it comes to demands from various quarters on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir, he emphasised that the demands should be within the ambit of the Constitution. “I am personally in favour of, at least now that almost 100 days have passed since the decision was taken, some kind of a political engagement to start in the Valley,” he said at an event here. “I am talking about it (beginning political engagement in the Valley) in my party also. Hopefully, we will be able to do something about it,” said Madhav, the BJP’s National General Secretary, adding that normal political activities have been going on in Jammu. To a question about what prevents the government from releasing political leaders in Kashmir from preventive custody, he said whether the government states its position or not, “there is no doubt” that the day these leaders are out they will certainly lead protests.
“We will also have to ensure that those protests need to be democratic and peaceful. That is expected. Nobody says there should not be any protest. It is a democracy, protests will be there,” he said.
Refusing to speculate about what could be the plans of the security establishment in Delhi or in Srinagar in this regard, he said: “engagement at political levels needs to be resumed sooner than later”.
Mainstream leaders in the Valley, including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, were taken into preventive custody in the wake of the Centre’s August 5 decision to revoke the special status of the state, now a union territory, under Article 370 of the Constitution.
While Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti remain under house arrest, Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the controversial Public Safety Act since September 17.
Madhav said the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has undergone major transformation since the abrogation of Article 370.
“So new kind of political activities will resume whenever the first opportunity comes. I am very keen that opportunity should come as soon as possible,” he said, addressing a discussion on ‘Kashmir After 370’ organised by think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
Madhav said the decision on opening up of the “political space” in Jammu and Kashmir will be taken together by the union territory’s administration and the central government.
“I have said it earlier also, that the sky is the limit for people to make demands. But what is expected is that it should be within the framework of the Indian constitution. Within that, any kind of political demand can be raised.
“So that kind of political space should be made available to people of Jammu and Kashmir, that’s my firm conviction. How early it can happen is for the administration in Jammu and Kashmir and the government in Delhi to decide together,” he suggested.
Participating in the dialogue, senior Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor questioned the preventive detention of political leaders in Kashmir.
“It certainly raises a question: what is the yardstick you are waiting for? Because remember there were no objective disturbances that prompted the arrest in the first place,” he said.
Tharoor said the amount of protests the leaders could engineer whenever they are released, whether it is three months from now or if they were released three months ago, will be the same.
“So ultimately the logic has never been understood by many of us as to why to detain them in the first place,” he said, adding: “I am at a loss to figure out on what objective basis can we say ‘now the conditions have arrived for the release’ because the conditions are in entirely your (government) own control”.
About the situation in the region, Tharoor said things are pretty bad in Jammu and Kashmir.
“What happened in August and thereafter has done us a great deal of damage internationally… It would require tremendous efforts for us to regain our lost ground. The ground we have lost is very severe,” he said.
Countering him, Madhav said only around 200 political leaders are in detention. “Are we trying to say that in entire Kashmir there are those 200 leaders. No? There are many more outside. There needs to be political activism,” the BJP leader said.
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