Three Peoples Democratic Party leaders have quit the party saying that Mehbooba Mufti’s statements “hurt patriotic sentiments”, NDTV reported on Monday. The three leaders are TS Bajwa, Ved Mahajan and Hussain A Waffa.

In a letter to party chief Mufti, the leaders said they were “feeling quite uncomfortable over some of her actions and undesirable utterances especially which hurt patriotic sentiments”.

On October 23, Mufti had said that her party would bring back the state flag and not abandon the battle for special status for Jammu and Kashmir. “My flag is this,” Mufti had remarked, pointing to the Jammu and Kashmir flag. “When this flag comes back, we’ll raise that flag [Indian tricolour] too.”

She had added: “Until we get our own flag back, we won’t raise any other flag...This flag forged our relationship with that flag.”

The PDP chief had also criticised the revocation of Article 370 and said that Parliament had no power to take it away. “A robber may be mighty, but he has to return the stolen goods,” she said, adding that this “dictatorship” will not go on for long. Hours after her comments, the Bharatiya Janata Party had called Mufti’s remarks “seditious” and said that she should be “put behind bars”.

On October 24, the state unit of the BJP filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India, seeking that Mufti’s party be derecognised. On the same day, a group of unidentified men forcibly hoisted the Indian tricolour at the Jammu office of the PDP. Party leader Firdous Tak claimed that a “few right wingers” attacked him and another leader Parvez Waffa who were present at the office.

Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Sunday that Mufti’s comments were “downright denunciation” of the sanctity of the country’s flag. He also asserted that Article 370 will not be restored as it was revoked following a proper constitutional process and both Houses of Parliament approved it with overwhelming numbers.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Sunday poured scorn on Prasad for claiming Article 370 of the Indian Constitution will be never restored, asking him not to presume what the Supreme Court would decide of the matter. However, he did not comment on the Mufti’s remarks. The Congress too chose not to toe Mufti’s line on the matter. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that Mufti’s statement does not match with the party’s political line. “People from all parts of J&K are upset about the unconstitutional manner in which changes were brought to the character of the former state, but in politics, you have to say that politically,” he added.

Mufti was on October 13 released from her over one-year detention under the Public Safety Act. She had been in detention since August 5, 2019, the day the Centre abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, bifurcated it into two Union Territories, and imposed a lockdown.

Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including two other former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah – were detained last year. Omar Abdullah was released seven months later on March 24 as the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked his detention order under the Public Safety Act. Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July.