World / Asia-Pacific

Modi govt's account stirs fuss in India-controlled Kashmir

By Xinhua in Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-29 07:07

A junior minister in the newly appointed Indian Prime Minister's Office racked up a major controversy on Tuesday, saying the government led by Narendra Modi has initiated a process to repeal special status granted to Indian-controlled Kashmir.

"The process of repealing Article 370 has started, and we are speaking to stakeholders," Jitendra Singh told media on the first day of the new leadership at the PMO in New Delhi. "Article 370 is more like a psychological barrier."

Enshrined in the Indian Constitution, Article 370 grants autonomous status to Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the region, reacted sharply to Singh's comments and said that Indian-controlled Kashmir's special status was the only link between the region and India.

"Article 370 is the only constitutional link between Jammu and Kashmir (Indian-controlled Kashmir) and the rest of India. Talk of revocation is not just ill-informed, it's irresponsible," Abdullah said in a Twitter post.

Abdullah also demanded that the government identify the stakeholders that Singh mentioned in his statement.

"The new minister of state of the PMO says the process and discussions to revoke Article 370 have started," Abdullah said. "Well I am the chief minister, the elected representative, and nobody has approached me."

The government led by the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party took office on Tuesday under the leadership of Modi after a sweeping victory in the Indian general elections helped them to secure the majority in Parliament.

The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party of Indian-controlled Kashmir called Singh's statement "disruptive" and demanded clarification from the Prime Minister's Office.

"Singh should realize that his newly acquired position as junior minister comes with some responsibilities, and the prime minister should intervene to discipline him," said Mehbooba Mufti, president of the PDP. "The PMO must clarify the statement to reassure the people of the region that no mischief is on its way."

Mufti urged Modi and the BJP to rein in the newly appointed minister before his utterances cause serious damage.

A movement challenging New Delhi's rule over Indian-controlled Kashmir has been brewing in the region since 1989, with guerilla clashes between militant groups and Indian soldiers across the restive region.

Meanwhile, the hard-line separatist alliance headed by Syed Ali Geelani said Article 370 was a non-issue for them but its repeal would strengthen the separatist movement as people would raise their voices against the government.

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