Modi government’s maiden statement on Kashmir

PMO working to repeal Article 370: Dr Jitendra

The Narendra Modi government is open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir and would make efforts to “convince” the “unconvinced” by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh said here Tuesday.
A New Delhi-based news channel quoting Singh as saying: “The process of repealing Article 370 has started. We are speaking to the stakeholders.” Speaking to CNN-IBN, Jitendra said, “Article 370 has done more harm than good. The youth of Kashmir has to be convinced about this. That’s why the honourable PM has called for a debate. Having a debate doesn’t mean we have deviated from what we promised. It just means convincing those who are not convinced.”
The 57-year-old first-time MP made it clear that BJP stood for abrogation of Article 370 (which gives special status to J and K) but at the same time it wanted to convince the people and have a democratic approach finding a lasting solution to the issue.
Singh said that state BJP was speaking to various stake holders. “We have called meetings in the Kashmir Valley and we have succeeded in convincing some of them (on repealing Article 370),” he said.
Singh, a surprise choice as Minister of State in the PMO, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his December rally last year, had suggested for discussion and seminars across the state to analyse merits and demerits of Article 370.
“His (Modi’s) intention and that of the government is that we have a debate so that we can convince the unconvinced about the disadvantages of Article 370.  If we do not have debate and discussion how would you be able to tell those who have been unable to understand what they have been deprived of on account of Article 370,” he said after taking over as Minister of State incharge of Department of Personnel and Training, which has administrative control over the CBI.
The Minister said “we are working very professionally but at the same time, please keep in mind that we are working very democratically. We do not want to impose ourselves on anyone and things will happen in natural course.”
Singh said Article 370 was more of a psychological barrier than a physical one.
He said Modi has supported debate on Article 370 keeping in mind democratic values. “The Prime Minister had said we want to have a debate. This does not mean that we want to have a debate because certain section of media interpreted that Prime Minister deviated from its stand. It’s not so. He said so with respect to the highest values of democratic system,” the minister said referring to one of the elections rallies by Modi where he had sought discussion on the article.
Singh, a doctor by profession, suggested that people in the state were also in favour of repealing the article.
“If you take voter account, we have more that 50 per cent of vote share,” he said and asked “can the media interpret that 50 per cent of people in the state wanted abrogation of Article 370?”
BJP has won three out of six Lok Sabha seats from the state.
Singh said talks will be held with every stakeholder of the state as all are “equally important” and reminded that the founding fathers including the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru were of the view that it is going to be a “transient provision.”

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