Jammu, Jan 24 (PTI) Alleging that the BJP has created a wedge between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party wants early restoration of statehood and assembly polls in the Union territory.
He said the Congress' position on Article 370 is the same as was declared by the Congress working committee after the constitutional provision was revoked by the BJP-led government in August 2019.
Two days after the Centre's move, the Congress working committee had deplored the "unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic" manner in which provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution were abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union territories.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 7 last year, is currently in Jammu and Kashmir for its final phase.
On not extending an invitation to Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad to join the yatra and former minister Lal Singh not being given a chair on the stage to mark the entry of the march into J&K, Gandhi said, "Singh supported the yatra and we appreciate his sentiment. The people of Ghulam Nabi Azad's party were on our stage. Ninety per cent of them are already in the Congress. I think, there is only Ghulam Nabi Azad-ji on that side." "My respects to Ghulam Nabi-ji and I apologise for any hurt that we may have caused either to Lal Singh-ji or Ghulam Nabi Azad-ji," he added.
Among various delegations that met him during the march, Gandhi said migrant Kashmiri Pandits clearly told him that they were being used politically and asked him to raise their issues in Parliament.
"The Kashmiri Pandits told me that the BJP was using them as a political weapon and forcibly sending them to Kashmir where they face the threat of targeted killings. They said whatever good had happened to them was done during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government," he said.
The Congress leader said the main aim of the foot march was to listen to the people and amplify what was in their hearts.
"We love all of you and respect you, and feel that J&K is going through a difficult phase. BJP has created a wedge which is harming both (Kashmir and Jammu regions) and this gap needs to be bridged. We want to open lakhs of shops selling love in J&K," he said.
"We have come to listen and understand the people, their pain which is in their hearts and the discomfort. The youth are talking about unemployment, they see no future, there is no industry and farmers are not getting any support," the former Congress president told reporters here.
He said the people need to maintain communal harmony, which is essential for taking the Union territory forward.
"Nothing is achieved by hatred or violence," Gandhi said, adding that the Congress wants the restoration of statehood and assembly polls as soon as possible.
On whether he was satisfied with the security arrangements made by the government for the yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi said, "It is the responsibility of the government to protect the yatris, and I hope they do as good a job as they are capable of doing." PTI TAS AB IJT