Stirring up again the raging controversy over the demand to abolish Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday said constitutional amendments were needed to fully integrate the troubled state with the rest of India.
Speaking on a range of issues in his annual address to RSS volunteers on its 92nd foundation day here, Bhagwat also dismissed reports of cow vigilantes indulging in communal violence, saying those protecting bovines were, in fact, being “attacked and killed”.
He asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government not to misinterpret the facts on the issue, and punish the criminals and not harm innocents as the “virtuous work of cow protection will increase in coming days”.
The BJP’s ideologue gave the thumbs up to the government on the economic situation even as the RSS chief sought special protection for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the “tremors” caused by the “cleaning and reform” drives like demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax regime.
He spoke elaborately on the Kashmir issue in his annual Vijaya Dashami speech and said Hindus who migrated to the state from west Pakistan in 1947 were in a “miserable state of refugees for their decision to be in Bharat and remain as Hindu”.
He blamed certain constitutional provisions, like Article 35(A) that empowers the state’s legislature to define Jammu and Kashmir residents and accord citizenship rights to them, for the “backward life” of these Hindu migrants.
“This is happening just because the discriminatory provisions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that denied them the fundamental rights,” he said.
“Necessary Constitutional amendments will have to be made and old provisions will have to be changed. Then and then only, the residents of Jammu and Kashmir can be completely assimilated with rest of Bharat and their equal cooperation and share will be possible in the national progress.”
The Article 35(A), which also bars non-residents from buying property in the state, applying for government jobs, voting in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, is being debated in the Supreme Court after a petition called for its revocation.
Bhagwat also spoke about Kashmiri Pandits, who migrated from the valley in early 1990s when an armed insurgency broke out in the state, saying their condition “remains as it is”.
Welcoming the government’s initiative of firmly dealing with separatists and militants, Bhagwat said the “path for complete resolution of the (Kashmir) issue will be facilitated when the entire society will stand behind the well- thought policy of dealing sternly and strongly with the anti-national forces”.
“To eradicate the poison of alienation and unrest created through the systematic and false propaganda over the years, the society will have to show the natural affection through these positive actions.”
Bhagwat said reports of cow vigilantes indulging in violence were wrong and asked the government not to misinterpret the facts and make sure that criminals were punished and innocents not harmed as the “virtuous work of cow protection will increase in coming days”.
The remarks follow scores of incidents of violence in the name of cow protection from across the country, including the murder of Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, who was killed by cow vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar.
According to an analysis of IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative, out of 63 cases of mob justice of lynchings recorded since 2010, 61 took place under the BJP government. At least 24 out of the 28 people killed in the attacks were Muslims. During the first six months of 2017, there were 20 cow or beef-related attacks.
But Bhagwat said inquiries into such incidents had made it “amply clear that (cow) activists were not involved in those acts of violence”.
“On the contrary, many activists who were peacefully involved in cow protection were attacked and killed. It is unfair to link cow protectors or the entire activity of cow protection with violent incidences or communal feelings,” Bhagwat said in his Hindi speech. The English translation was made available on the RSS’ website.
Apparently referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stern warning against violence in the name of cow, Bhagwat asked RSS volunteers not to get distracted with the statements of “highly placed persons in the government” and remarks by the Supreme Court asking state governments to act against those involved in lynching incidents.
Bhagwat said SMEs, a great employment generator, were India’s security net during the ups and downs in the global trade and economic slowdowns.
“Crores of people get jobs or employments through these sectors. Most of the people standing in the last line of the society are also from these sectors.”
He said while reforming and cleaning the economic system, the government should keep in mind that these sectors “feel the minimum heat and ultimately get the maximum strength”.
On the issue of Rohingya refugees, Bhagwat said they were a security risk.
“They are being driven out of Myanmar mainly due to their continuous violent and criminal separatist activities and linkages with terrorist groups. Any decision regarding them should be taken by keeping in mind that they will definitely be a threat to national security and integrity.”