New Delhi: AAP’s senior party leader Yogender Yadav today said that Prashant Bhushan had a right to express a personal opinion on Kashmir and that his personal beliefs are not shared by all party members. He made the statement in an interaction with certain members of the media and sought to defend the diversity of opinion in the party by saying that AAP was not a traditional setup.
Yadav said, “We all come from diverse ideological perspectives, backgrounds, etc. A lot of my convictions, or those of Prashant Bhushan’s will not be shared by everyone in the party. AAP has people who you would call traditional leftists, others who believe in a free market, some who are deeply critical of left. Unlike traditional political parties, we are not based on the idea of one ideology, we are here to solve problems.”
Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the founder members of AAP, had earlier said this week that there needed to be a referendum in Kashmir on the issue of Army deployment. The back and forth over his statement has revealed the kind of confusion that seems to exist in the party.
After the initial furore over his statement, Bhushan had then sent out a press note defending his position and said that his words were misconstrued.
He said in his statement, "I said that there is considerable alienation among the people of Kashmir which is primarily because of the human rights excesses by the security forces in Kashmir and the immunity given to them by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). I had said that the immunity of AFSPA should be removed to win the hearts of the people of Kashmir. I further said, that my personal view is that even the deployment of armed forces in Kashmir, not for external defence or to prevent infiltration but for the security of the people of Kashmir should not be done without the consent of the people of Kashmir."
He further added, " Of course, the Union of government is fully entitled to deploy the army for the external defence in Kashmir as well as for protecting the minorities if there is any threat to minority rights." He had then stated that AAP view is that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that he too shared that view. Bhushan however added at the end of his statement saying, any deployment..."must be exercised in the best interest of the people, and as far as possible with their consent," thus once again reiterating that the people’s wishes should be respected.
AAP, then issued a statement that they were against referendum for army deployment in Jammu-Kashmir and that it was not right to seek public opinion on matters of internal and external security. To add to the confusion, the AAP press statement said Bhushan too has the same opinion on the party.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has distanced himself from the referendum statement in the first place, but said, "The feelings of the local people should be taken into account, otherwise it will be a threat to democracy."
Yadav, today sought to clear some of the confusion over this back and forth by saying that Bhushan had a right to a personal opinion. He said, “Prashant has been speaking out on the Kashmir issue for a long time and at times at great personal risk. While he is entitled to his opinion, not everyone in the party feels the same.”
He also added that Bhushan’s statement had been taken out of context. “When it comes to the question of Kashmir, the moment you say referendum, people assume it’s automatically calling for plebiscite. He had called for referendum on army presence and not for a plebiscite as it was misconstrued later on,” he pointed out.
Yadav's defence however inadvertently serves to underline the confusion among AAP leaders who can't even agree as to whether Bhushan supports the referendum or not.
Given the kind of mayhem that is reigning over the Bhushan statement, it would be natural to assume that AAP would work on having a party line for all leaders. However Yadav said, “I don’t see why we should hide our differences and brush them under the carpet.”
For AAP, the remark has already caused tangible damage. The party's Kausambhi office was attacked in Ghaziabad by a group calling themselves the Hindu Raksha Dal over the remarks made by Bhushan.
Arvind Kejriwal, later condemned the attack, while speaking to reporters in the Delhi secretariat and said, “Let us assume that Prashant Bhushan indeed said something objectionable, so what do they want? Do they want to kill Prashantji? We have cleared the stand of our party and (Bhushan) has also said many times that his opinion was misinterpreted. He has even stated that he doesn't want a referendum.”
"Do they also want to kill me," asked a visibly agitated Kejriwal.