- On Kashmir move, Amit Shah vs Congress in Lok Sabha
- Mr Shah said move to scrap special status for J&K "not a political move"
- Congress leader said government broke rules with J&K union territory move
Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it includes PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir), Home Minister Amit Shah said today as he addressed the Lok Sabha on the tectonic move to end special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and to bifurcate the state into two union territories.
"This is not a political move... Parliament has full powers to make laws for the entire country.... The constitution of India and the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir both allow for this to be done," Amit Shah said as Congress members interrupted him with their protests.
"Kashmir is an integral part of India. I want to make it absolutely clear that every single time we say Jammu and Kashmir, it includes Pak-Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit-Baltistan) as well as Aksai Chin. Let there be no doubt over it. Entire Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India," the Home Minister said.
He was responding to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's charge that the government violated rules by turning Jammu and Kashmir into a union territory. The Congress lawmaker, awkwardly for his party, also appeared to suggest that the changes in Jammu and Kashmir's status were not an internal matter.
"I don't think you are thinking about PoK, you violated all rules and converted a state into a union territory overnight," Mr Chowdhury said, Sonia Gandhi seated by his side.
"I want to know. You say it's an internal matter. But it is being monitored since 1948 by the UN, is that an internal matter? We signed the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration, was that an internal matter or bilateral? Can J&K be an internal matter considering previous bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, "he questioned.
"I want to be enlightened by you. Congress party wants to be enlightened. It is a fundamental question," Mr Chowdhury said.
Amit Shah retorted that there should be no doubt that Jammu and Kashmir was an inseparable part of India and wondered if the Congress leader thought it was not an internal matter of India. "Kashmir ki seema mein PoK bhi aata hai... Jaan de denge iske liye! (PoK also falls within Kashmir. We will give up our lives for it)," he shot back.
The Home Minister also took a dig at the Congress's apparent divide within on Article 370, asking the party to clarify whether it was in favour of the government's Kashmir move or against it.
On Monday, the bill to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories cruised through the Rajya Sabha - where the government is short of a majority - with several opposition parties walking out and others siding with the government, like Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSR Congress, N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party and Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party.
The Congress was among the opposition parties who argued against the move even though some of its leaders appeared to contradict the party line and support the government's decision outside parliament.
This morning, as Congress lawmakers met with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to firm up the party line and present a united front, they were told to oppose the move. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, asked whether the party should support or oppose the move, reportedly said: "We will oppose it and our opposition is based on the manner in which the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the state assembly, have not been consulted."