Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah on Tuesday criticised Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks against the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which has been opposing the Centre’s revocation of Article 370.

Earlier in the day, in a series of tweets, Shah called the alliance an “unholy global gathbandhan” that wanted “foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir”. The home minister also said that Indians will “not tolerate them”.

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, or Gupkar Alliance, is a tie-up of six parties, which was formed in October with the agenda of reinstating the now abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mufti responded to Shah in three tweets, saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party was using the term “Gupkar Gang” to portray the politicians in the alliance as “anti nationals”. “Earlier BJP’s narrative was that the ‘tukde tukde’ gang threatened India’s sovereignty and they are now using ‘Gupkar Gang’ euphemism to project us as anti nationals,” she tweeted. “Irony died a million deaths since its BJP itself that violates the Constitution day in and day out.”

Mufti further criticised the home minister for suggesting that contesting the elections in an alliance was “anti-national”. She said that the BJP had stitched several alliances “in its hunger for power”, but has claimed that the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration was working against national interest by “putting up a united front”.

“BJPs stale tactic of dividing India by projecting themselves as saviours and political opponents as internal and imagined enemies is far too predictable now,” she wrote. “Love jihad, tukde tukde and now Gupkar Gang dominates the political discourse instead of rising unemployment and inflation.”

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also hit out at Shah for using the word “gang” to describe the alliance. “We are not a ‘gang’ Amit Shahji, we are a legitimate political alliance having fought and continuing to fight elections, much to your disappointment,” he wrote in one of a series of tweets.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said that only in their Union Territory are politicians “detained and called anti-national” for taking part in elections and supporting the democratic procedure. “The truth is all those who oppose the ideology of the BJP are labelled ‘corrupt and anti-national’,” Abdullah tweeted.

The Kashmiri politician claimed that the home minister’s “attack” was because he had been driven to frustration. “He had been briefed that the People’s Alliance was preparing to boycott elections,” Abdullah tweeted. “This would have allowed the BJP and newly formed King’s party a free run in Jammu and Kashmir. We didn’t oblige them.”

The Congress also criticised Shah’s remarks and accused him of “spreading lies”. “To spread lies, fraud and creating new illusions have become the way of the Modi government,” the party’s spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted. “It’s a shame that Home Minister Amit Shah is keeping aside the responsibility of the national security and is making false, misleading and mischievous statements on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.”

Meanwhile, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad supported Shah’s remarks and called them “appropriate”, reported PTI. He cited Mufti’s remarks, made on November 9 and October 23, that she will hold both the tricolour and the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir together.

Prasad also claimed that National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah once said that he will ask for China’s support for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

A controversy began after Farooq Abdullah in an interview on October 11 claimed that the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 had spawned tensions between India and China, sparking off a months-long bitter standoff in Ladakh. Abdullah said China has never accepted India’s decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s semi autonomous status and split it into Union Territories. The National Conference had later denied the accusations.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under central rule since June 2018. The special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 was revoked in August 2019 by the Parliament and the region was bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. A slew of petitions challenging the abrogation is pending before the Supreme Court.