Congress backs scrapping of Art 370: Manmohan Singh but not BJP’s high-handedness

Mumbai: After the Maharashtra BJP promised Bharat Ratna to VD Sawarkar, the Congress has made it clear that it is not opposed to Swarkar as a person, but is opposed to his ideology of the Hindutva. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh cleared his stand at a meet with intellectuals on Thursday.

Sawarkar was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, but was acquitted. Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential “Savarkar-ji”, Singh said former Congress prime minister, late Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar’s memory.

“(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkarji patronised and stood for. As far as the issue of giving Bharat Ratna, the government should take into consideration this aspect,” he said.

The Congress’s stand can be termed as a cautious and balanced one keeping in mind Maharashtra’s sentiment for Sawarkar. The party chose not to directly oppose Sawarkar, but expose his ideology which was against secularism of the country.

“The Congress does not need a certificate of patriotism from anyone, especially the RSS, which did not take part in the freedom struggle,” he said, while replying to criticism by the BJP for the Congress stand on Article 370.

Pointing out that it voted in favour of the abrogation of Article 370, but opposed the high-handed way in which it was done.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, Singh said the Congress opposes the “high-handedness” with which Article 370 of the Constitution — which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir — was introduced in Parliament.

Earning goodwill of the people of Jammu & Kashmir was necessary before such a move, the former prime minister said.

“Congress voted in favour of the move (the abrogation) in Parliament, not against it. Congress feels that the Article 370 is a temporary measure, but if a change is to be brought, it has to be with the goodwill of the people of J&K,” he said.

Singh also hit out against the NDA government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against the Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except Muslims.

He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament such a divisive bill has been tabled.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, the former prime minister said that the BJP expected that it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status were Bengali Hindus.

There is a need to look at things in an objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a “human problem”, Singh said.

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