Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday accused the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru of internationalising the Kashmir issue by taking it to the United Nations and said India's neighbour was still misusing it.
The minister targeted the Congress on the issue while replying to a discussion on the Budget 2022-23 for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) in Rajya Sabha.
"The Congress internationalised the issue. It was our first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru ji who took it to the United Nations in December 1947. Why?
"The issue was internationalised and our neighbour is still misusing it. Who is responsible for this," Sitharaman said.
The minister said the Kashmir issue should not have gone to a global forum.
''It is essentially an Indian issue. We could have handled it. We are handling it, and we are showing the difference now," she said, maintaining that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, however, sought to defend Nehru's actions.
"I would like to set the record straight. If the matter was taken to the UN Security Council, the issue was whether there would be a cessation of the military conflict or not. India did not accept the plebiscite,'' he said intervening in the minister's reply.
"The UN Observers' Office was never given that sanctity. India conducted elections. There were elected governments in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
"'Not only that, we fought wars and we made it very clear repeatedly, and this has been India's consistent position, prior to 2014, that Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of the sovereign State of India," Sharma added.
Sitharaman criticised the Congress for questioning the removal of Article 370 and quoted Prime Minister Nehru's reply in Parliament in 1963 that "Article 370 is part of a certain transitional provisional arrangement. It is not a permanent part of the Constitution''.
"For 70 years that transitional arrangement remained and when we removed it, you should have gone by what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said in 1963 and supported it," she told Congress members.
Stressing that from Jan Sangh days their manifestos have spoken about the abrogation of Article 370, Sitharaman said, "It was a promise given to the people of the country and we have fulfilled it."
The minister also rebutted the Opposition's charge that the BJP too shared the responsibility for the failure to check the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 as it was supporting the then V P Singh-led government at the Centre.
She pointed out that terror killings were being carried out in Kashmir before 1990 when the National Conference was in power in J-K in alliance with the Congress and recalled the then governor Jagmohan's warning about dark clouds of terror overpowering the Valley.
She listed "seven major events" or killings of Hindus by terrorists in 1989 along with the related FIR numbers.
During the discussion, the Congress party had targeted the BJP, saying it was supporting the V P Singh-led government at the Centre in 1990 when Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley after they were targeted by terrorists.
"I just want to put the facts on record. The National Conference government with the support of the Indian National Congress was in power in J&K from November 1986 to January 18, 1990.
And Governor Jagmohan reached J&K (on January 20, 1990) after the resignation of the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah....20th January 1990 is when the Governor eaches Srinagar," the minister said.
"...whatever happened in 1990, we all know we listed out and we are all seeing it also.
But what happened in 1989 when this (Farooq Abdullah) government was still in place, November 1986 onwards till 18 January 1990. I will take just the example of 1989 when that government of National Conference and Indian National Congress was still there, " Sitharaman said.
The Finance Minister also told the opposition that Governor Jagmohan (in his first tenure) in July 1989 had warned the then state government regarding the danger of terrorism.
"Is it not true that even Jagmohan Ji, in his first phase of being Governor when he was asked to leave in July 1989, didn't he warn authorities at that time itself that the dark cloud of terrorists are really overpowering J&K, and necessary steps have to be taken by the state government," the minister said.
While she was referring to the killings of 1989, certain opposition members asked her to focus her reply on the Budget.
To this, Sitharaman said even the speeches of opposition members were focused on Kashmir Files' (movie) and not on the Budget, therefore, she has every right to reply on all issues.
The minister also told the House that since the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, terror activities have significantly declined, and development works are happening in the Union Territory.
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