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Kashmir remarks land Modi govt into first controversy

NEW DELHI: A statement by minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, on the first day in government on Tuesday sparked the new government’s first controversy when he said the Narendra Modi government was open to debate on Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, guaranteeing special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The minister made it clear that efforts would be made through this exercise to ‘convince’ the ‘unconvinced’ in this regard. Soon after, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah strongly objected to the minister’s statement and tweeted, “So the new MOS PMO says process/discussions to revoke Art 370 have started. Wow, that was a quick beginning. Not sure who is talking.” He went on to add, “Mark my words & save this tweet - long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist.” “Art 370 is the ONLY constitutional link between J&K & rest of India. Talk of revocation of not just ill informed it’s irresponsible,” he added. The NDTV later quoted Jitendra Singh as saying, “the statement on Article 370 has been misquoted, the controversy is totally baseless.” Repeating the stand of Modi during his rally in December last year, Singh, a first-time Parliament member and a surprise choice as minister of state in the PMO, had earlier in the day said, “his (Modi’s) intention and that of the government is that we have a debate so that we can convince the unconvinced about the disadvantages of Article 370,” PTI reported. “If we do not have debate and discussion how would you be able to tell those who have been unable to understand what they have been deprived of on account of Article 370,” he said after taking over as minister of state in-charge of department of personnel and training, which has administrative control over the CBI. 57-year-old Singh said Article 370 was more of a psychological barrier than a physical one and added that the Modi-led government was open to debate with all stakeholders, including youths, pros and cons of retaining or withdrawing the article. Singh said his party has been inviting all stakeholders to get on board and succeeded to a greater extent in the Valley particularly with the youth. He said people in J&K need to have an outlet.

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