Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said that curfews and internet shutdowns in Jammu and Kashmir were meant for people’s safety. He was speaking at a summit organised by the Hindustan Times.
“I asked the youth there, who would die if the curfew is opened, and they said “we would”,” Shah said. “So, what those who were opposing the curfew wanted, is something the people of the country should determine.”
Curfews and internet shutdowns are frequently imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. Since last year, the internet was suspended on 93 instances in the Union Territory, despite a Supreme Court ruling that deemed freedom of speech through the internet a fundamental right.
Kashmir had witnessed its longest internet shutdown after Article 370, which granted special status to the erstwhile state, was abrogated on August 5, 2019. It had lasted seven months.
Since Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood has been revoked, there has been a political demand to restore it before the next Assembly election takes place.
However, Shah on Saturday said that even before the election, a delimitation exercise will take place in the Union territory.
On February 17, 2020, the central government began the delimitation process – or redrawing boundaries – of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will go up from 107 to 114, and delimitation will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“Parliament has passed a law for delimitation in the region,” Shah said. “So, first delimitation will happen, then elections will happen, and the process of restoration of statehood will begin. I have said this many times, but they are only trying to create a political controversy.”
The Union home minister, however, asked if there was a relation between the restoration of statehood and peace.
“I recently saw a statement by [Farooq] Abdullah saab that Kashmir will see peace only when Article 370 is restored,” Shah said. “Article 370 was there for 75 years, why was there no peace? If there is a relationship between Article 370 and peace, was it not there in the 1990s?”
On Assembly elections
The Union home minister also spoke about Bharatiya Janata Party’s preparedness for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year.
In Uttar Pradesh, Shah said alliances among Opposition parties will not impact the BJP, which he predicted, will win by a large margin.
“When two parties come together, their votes will also add up, is an assessment I don’t agree with,” he said. “When two chemicals mix, some other chemical is formed. We have seen it in the past. The Samajwadi Party and Congress came together. Then all three parties came together. Both times, the BJP won.”
Meanwhile, Shah said that the saffron party was in talks with Amarinder Singh’s newly-formed Punjab Lok Congress and former Akali leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s Shiromani Akali Dal (Samyukta) for an alliance in Punjab.
“We may have an alliance,” he said. “As far as the farmers’ protests are concerned, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, showing a big heart to end the protests and saying, fine if you think the farm laws are not in your benefit, took them back. I don’t think there is any issue left in Punjab.”