Former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti on Friday addressed her first press conference after being released from 14 months of detention.
In the presser, she launched a scathing attack on the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) for abrogating Article 370 and said her party will continue the fight to "bring back the state flag" and "won't abandon Kashmir's battle" for special status. She added that she will raise the Indian tricolour only when the "flag of Jammu and Kashmir" is brought back.
Mufti said, “The people of J&K are expendable to them (Centre), what they want is territory. This country will run on the Constitution, not on the BJP’s manifesto."
"My flag is this (points to the flag of J&K kept on the table in front of her). When this flag comes back, we will raise that flag (tricolour) too. Until we get our own flag back, we won't raise any other flag...This flag forged our relationship with that flag," she added "Our relationship with the flag of this country is not independent of this flag (Jammu and Kashmir's flag). When this flag comes in our hand, we will raise that flag too," she further said.
Meanwhile, her remarks drew sharp criticism from Congress and BJP.
Jammu and Kashmir BJP demanded Mufti's arrest for her "seditious" remarks. The saffron party said "no power on earth" can either hoist the state flag again or restore Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"I request Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to take cognisance of the seditious remarks of Mehbooba Mufti, book her for the seditious act and put her behind bars," Jammu and Kashmir BJP president Ravinder Raina told reporters. "We will sacrifice every drop of our blood for our flag, country and motherland. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of our country, so only one flag can be hoisted in Jammu and Kashmir and that is the national flag," he said.
Besides, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said Mufti's remarks were highly provocative and irresponsible, and she has hurt the patriotic sentiments of people. "She should desist from making such outrageous utterances to hurt the sentiments of every Indian," the Congress leader said. "Such statements are intolerable and unacceptable in any society," he added.
Moreover, several Shiv Sena Dogra Front (SSDF) activists on Saturday took to streets in Jammu staging a protest against former Mufti. The protestors, who were assembled at Rani Park, were holding the Indian flags in their hands, raising slogans against the former chief minister and setting her pictures ablaze. Slogans of "Jhanda Uncha Rahe Hamara" were also raised during the protest.
"Whoever opposes the tricolour will not live in this country. They will have to go to Pakistan. This flag is our honour and a sign of our respect to the martyrs. Those who oppose the tricolour should be sent to either Pakistan or China," SSDF president Ashok Gupta told reporters.
(With input from agencies)