Lok Sabha Election 2019: BJP sticks to stand on Article 370, Citizenship Bill and AFSPA despite protests on ground

This time, the Bharatiya Janata Party rides into the Lok Sabha elections not on a wave generated by an individual's promise, but on some of its own promises.

Some of these promises are extremely polarising, so much so that protests have been held over them, protests that have crippled normal life in pockets of the country.

Yet, the BJP has been steadfast in maintaining its stand on these following issues, irrespective of the reaction on the ground.

Articles 35(A) and 370

The BJP has consistently advocated an end to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, afforded by the Articles 35(A) and 370 of the Constitution, which prevent outsiders from buying property there, arguing that such laws have hindered its integration with the rest of India.

 Lok Sabha Election 2019: BJP sticks to stand on Article 370, Citizenship Bill and AFSPA despite protests on ground

Representational image. Reuters

“In the last five years, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir through decisive actions and a firm policy,” the party said in its manifesto. “We are committed to overcome all obstacles in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state.”

In rallies, at meetings, BJP chief Amit Shah can be counted upon to call for the abrogation of these articles. Before his Saturday roadshow from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, Shah garlanded photographs of Jan Sangh founders Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Syama Prasad Mukherjee and then asked people present to chant, "the whole of Kashmir is ours."

People's Democratic Party chief and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has been unfaltering in her criticism of BJP's stand on the disputed articles, issuing warnings that should they be struck down, Kashmir would stop being a part of India. National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said abrogation will mean the "freedom for Kashmir." People's Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone has also joined the ranks against the abrogation.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday, however, reiterated that Kashmir "will never be separated from India."

Citizenship Amendment Bill

The BJP has also not given up on its dream to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Its manifesto, released on Monday, says as much.

File image of protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill. PTI

File image of protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill. PTI

Yet, the same bill, while it was in the Lok Sabha, garnered extensive protests across the North East. In late January, ten political parties of the North East — all members of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance — unanimously decided to oppose the Bill. The Janata Dal (United) had also joined the 10 fronts to criticise its ally in Bihar for "failing to look after the concerns of the North East".

The Citizen (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to amend the Citizen Act of 1955. It relaxes the eligibility rules to get Indian citizenship for immigrants belonging to six minority religions — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While protests have been seen against the obvious disinclusion of Muslims in the list of people the government is willing to provide citizenship too, far bigger ones have been seen in the North East, opposing the ease with which illegal immigrants will be able to become citizens.

The indigenous communities of Assam see the bill as a threat as it goes against a provision in the Assam Accord, which mentions that any person who came to Assam after midnight of 24 March, 1971, will be identified as a foreigner. The people of Assam also fear that an influx of immigrants will take a toll on the limited state resources and alter its demography.

Given the vehement opposition to the proposed legislation, it has puzzled many as to why the BJP had pushed so hard to have it passed in an election year. It seems, for now, to be convinced that the value of the legislation outdoes the electoral losses it might incur.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Armed Force (Special Powers) Act 

The talk on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was started this election season by Congress. In its manifesto, the party vowed to look once again at the 1958 Act "in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture."

This mention gave the BJP ammunition to charge the Congress with disrespect of the Indian Armed Forces. Not a day had passed before Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asked in a press conference, "Why should it be presumed that the powers of the security forces are opposed to human rights? This is very, very insidious."

One person who has taken the AFSPA amendment spectre raised by Congress to heart is none other than the Prime Minister, who in successive rallies has said this Act is a raksha kavach or security cover for the Indian Army.

On Monday, in an interview with CNNNews18, Modi summarily dismissed any talk of repealing the controversial Act, especially in Kashmir, likening its removal to "sending soldiers to the gallows."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2019 17:10:24 IST

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