28 August 2019
New Delhi: After Pakistan in its letter to the UN specifically quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying that "people are dying" in Kashmir, a visibly embarrassed Congress changed tack and instead of attacking the government, fiercely attacked Pakistan as the instigator of violence in the Valley, stressing that Kashmir is India's internal issue.
Gandhi, who is in his Wayanad parliamentary constituency, said in a series of tweets: "I disagree with this government on many issues. But let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India's internal issue and there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it.
"There is violence in Jammu and Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan, which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world."
Pakistan, in its letter to the UN General Assembly, said that "Rahul Gandhi has noted 'people are dying' in Jammu and Kashmir, in light of events 'going very wrong there'."
The letter has been doing the rounds on social media, and Pakistan has taken care to mention the name of Gandhi in it more than once to buttress its claim of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir following the lockdown and the revocation of its special status.
Gandhi's name being openly bandied by Pakistan in support of its stand on Kashmir is likely to harm his image and that of the Congress party.
Gandhi had tried to lead an opposition delegation to Srinagar on Saturday, but was turned back. He has been locked in a war of words with J&K Governor Satyapal Malik, who has refused to allow him into the Valley, saying that it would upset the move towards normalcy that the administration is striving to bring about.
Gandhi has been maintaining that if the government claims things are returning to normalcy, then he and other opposition leaders should be allowed to see it for themselves.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is against demonising Prime Minister Narendra Modi on every issue, also joined Gandhi and said that the Congress had insisted all along that Kashmir was an integral part of India and the party was only opposed to the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated.
He also asked Pakistan not to draw any comfort from the Congress' stand.
"Spot on, Chief! This is what Congress has insisted all along: J&K is an integral part of India; we opposed the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated because the way it was done assaulted our Constitution and democratic values. No reason for Pakistan to draw any comfort from our stand," Tharoor tweeted.
Before Gandhi, several senior party leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Janaradan Dwivedi, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, his son Deepender Hooda, UP MLA Aditi Singh, Milind Deora, Anil Shastri and others have spoken in favour of the government's decision to revoke Article 370.
The Congress also slammed Pakistan for its "diabolical deception" over Kashmir, saying Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were, are and will remain an integral part of India.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement that the party had noticed reports about the Pakistani government having allegedly moved a petition on Jammu and Kashmir at the United Nations that included the name of its former President.
"Rahul Gandhi has been dragged to justify the pack of lies and deliberate misinformation being spread by Pakistan. Let no one in the world be in doubt that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were, are and shall always remain an integral part of India. No amount of diabolical deception by Pakistan shall change this irrevocable truth," he said.
Instead, he added, Pakistan should answer to the world about the unpardonable and inhumane violations of human rights in PoK-Gilgit-Hunza-Baltistan.
"Pakistan also owes an explanation for the designed persecution of over 70 million Mohajirs and the killing of over 25,000 by Pakistani forces," he said.
The Congress leader said that human rights violations in Balochistan have never been answered.
"The entire world witnessed the horrific murder of 128 innocents on July 13, 2018 during an election rally by the Balochistan Awami Movement. The gross abuse of human rights of Pashtun people in the tribal regions by the Pakistan Army as also the systematic persecution and prosecution of the Ahmadiyya religious community is yet to be answered by Pakistan," Surjewala said.
He urged Pakistan to answer these issues, both internally to its people as also to the international community, "instead of raising the fake Kashmir bogey".
"Let the world be reminded again that almost every terrorist organisation thrives in Pakistan under political and military patronage -- be it Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizbul Mujahedeen, Al-Qaeda or Taliban and its multiple offshoots."
On Monday, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi met the President of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Maria Fernanda Espinosa in New York and briefed her on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
After the meeting, Lodhi had said that she briefed Espinosa about "the grave situation in Kashmir where the continuing curfew and lockdown is exacerbating the sufferings of the people. UN should live up to its obligations on Kashmir."