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Anger in Kashmir over RSS call to end autonomy

A leading right-wing Hindu nationalist has sparked anger by calling for the state of Jammu and Kashmir to lose its autonomy and be integrated into the rest of India. Critics say Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh (RSS), is behind a sectarian drive to make India a Hindu-only country. The RSS is the ideological driving force behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Modi is a lifelong member.
In a speech on Sunday to mark RSS foundation day, Bhagwat called on the government to make the “necessary constitutional amendments” and “change old provisions of the constitution … to assimilate the residents of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India.”
Article 370 of the Indian constitution grants autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. It gives the state the right to legislate on issues regarding marriage and divorce, children, property transfers other than agricultural land, contracts, bankruptcy, courts, family planning, charities and elections to state bodies. The article has been in effect since 1948, when the Hindu ruler of the Muslim majority state agreed to accede to the Indian union on the condition that it have special status in the constitution.
“The RSS-BJP family has always targeted India’s only Muslim-majority state as a first step in their overall program for a Hindu India,” Siddiq Wahid, a senior visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, told Arab News. “Article 370 is designed to protect political, economic and cultural rights in the state in its entirety, not just its Muslim citizens. They want to rescind that right of the state’s Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. It is a prelude to doing the same for the rest of the country. That is the design behind the attack.”
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has governed the state in alliance with the BJP for the past three years, said “such political jingoism is not good for the state.” “It puts stress on our alliance,” spokesman Nizamuddin Bhat told Arab News. “The relationship between Kashmir and India is well defined by certain agreements that cannot be abrogated and Kashmir will rise up in revolt if any attempt is made to tamper with the constitutional provision.”
Mustafa Kamal, a senior leader of National Conference, the main opposition party in Kashmir, said Article 370 was “the only link Kashmir has with the Indian union. It is a constitutional guarantee that we have not merged with the Indian union; we have acceded, and this fact Mohan Bhagwat cannot ignore.
“The RSS is a sectarian organization and they have been sowing the seeds of religious tension since 1947.” Suhail, 28, a management student from Srinagar, also criticized the speech by Bhagwat. “What Kashmir needs is a healing touch, not provocative statements, to calm down the anger,” he said.
“Such political statements by the BJP create deep distrust about the BJP’s intention in the state. “It further pushes the new generation to radical path,” said Suhail, who proudly admits to throwing stones at security forces last summer “for their brutality and high handedness.” However, Altaf Thakur, of the Kashmir unit of the BJP, said Article 370 should be abolished. “This article is keeping the state economically backward and not allowing industry and business to come.”
‘Courtesy Arab News.

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