Envoys from 15 countries at the start of a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir (Express Photo)
OF THE nearly dozen civil society members who met the group of 15 foreign envoys in Jammu on Friday — the second day of their two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir — at least three were senior BJP leaders, and one a known party supporter. Moreover, the delegation of Kashmiri Pandits was led by BJP state spokesperson Ashwani Churangoo.
#Narinder Singh, BJP general secretary, J&K, was part of the civil society group, reportedly as a refugee of Pakistan-occupied territory. He said his family originally hailed from Palandari area of Poonch, which is now under Pakistan control. “All of us hailed the removal of Articles 370 and 35A, and told the visiting envoys that this was a longstanding demand of the people... We told them the situation in J&K is normal,’’ he said.
#Ghulam Ali Khatana, vice-president of J&K BJP, met the envoys as president of the J&K Gujjars United Front. He said the removal of Articles 370 and 35A had empowered the Gujjars and village panchayats.
#Abhinav Sharma, spokesperson of J&K BJP, was included in the civil society group as president of J&K High Court Bar Association. He said he told the envoys that both the Articles could have been removed through a Presidential proclamation, but the Union government took Parliament into confidence and got a resolution passed by both Houses.
#Churangoo, BJP state spokesperson, led the Kashmiri Pandits’ group which met the envoys in Jagti township, on the outskirts of Jammu. He was earlier with Panun Kashmir, then floated his own Panun Kashmir Movement, before finally joining the BJP. “We apprised the envoys on how Articles 370 and 35A were encouraging separatist tendencies in the Valley, forcing Kashmiri Pandits to leave their homes and live in exile in their own country,” he said.
#Labha Ram Gandhi, who is a known BJP supporter, represented the West Pakistan refugees. He said he told the envoys that members of his community were still treated as outsiders. “The country may have got independence on August 15, 1947, but we got freedom on August 5, 2019 when the Centre moved to remove Articles 370 and 35A,’’ he said.
#Among the others who met the envoys were two members of the teaching community from the University of Jammu, two from Valmiki Samaj, and a former soldier of the Gorkha community settled in Jammu. Meanwhile, State Congress president G A Mir and National Conference provincial president Devender Rana said they were not invited by the administration.
When contacted, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina said the party had not received any invitation, as the government had decided to keep it a non-political affair. Asked about the senior BJP leaders who met the envoys, he said they had been invited as leaders of non-political organisations representing various sections of civil society.
Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation of refugees from Pakistan, and Rakesh Gupta, president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, were not invited to meet the envoys. Chuni said it was a guided tour by the administration, while Gupta said the administration, perhaps, did not think them fit to meet the foreign dignitaries.