Art 370 decision driven by patriotism, says Shah as BJP steps up campaign to rally public support

(Eds: Incorporating related stories) Mumbai/Patna, Sep 22 (PTI) As the BJP stepped up its countrywide outreach campaign on revoking Article 370, its chief Amit Shah and other senior leaders on Sunday asserted that the decision on Jammu and Kashmir was driven by patriotism for its full integration with the country and will help end terrorism in the Valley. Party stalwarts including Home Minister Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP working-president J P Nadda and several other Union Ministers addressed public meetings in major cities like Mumbai, Patna and Bengaluru where they slammed the opposition for "doing politics" on the issue and stressed that the decision to do away with Jammu and Kashmir's special status is supported by a majority of people. They also hit out at Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in the Valley and warned it against any misadventure.Shah said Article 370 was a hurdle in the integration and development of J-K while Singh likened it to a "canker" that bled the state. "Article 370 was and is an issue of political game for the Congress but for us it was a promise of integration. You (Congress) see politics in it, we see it as patriotism," Shah said in Mumbai and urged the voters in poll-bound Maharashtra to punish those opposing scrapping of J-K's special status. "Our work doesn't end at the removal of Article 370, our work starts now. It is our target to take this country forward on the chapter of nationalism and progress," he said. Targeting Congress and NCP, he said, they were "shamelessly" opposing abrogation of Article 370 provisions and hit out those who had raised apprehensions of bloodshed in the state. "Not a single bullet has been fired in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370," he said, adding that there is no unrest in the Valley and in the coming days, "terrorism will be finished". Shah said nobody ever thought Article 370 and 35(A) could be abrogated so swiftly, but the Modi government did it. Addressing a "Jan Jagran Sabha" (public awareness meet) organized by the BJP in Patna, Rajnath Singh said "as a nationalist party, the BJP never softened its stand on the issue." "Article 370 was like a canker (nasoor) which left J&K bleeding. We have now demonstrated that we are an honest and credible party which fulfils its promises," he said. He blamed Article 370, and Article 35A which arose out of it, for the state being in the throes of terrorism. "J&K will now be transformed within five years. In fact, more than three-fourths of its population wanted this provision to go. Our intentions were good and it is no surprise that our move was supported wholeheartedly by our alliance partners," Singh said. Hitting out at Pakistan, he said, "Talks with Pakistan will henceforth resume only after it stops promoting terrorism. And it must also keep in mind that J&K is an integral part of India. All discussions will only take place about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir." Shah warned Pakistan against repeating the "mistakes of 1965 and 1971" and said it may face disintegration on account of flagrant human rights violations against Balochs and Pashtuns on its soil. Among others who addressed the gathering were Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Nityanand Rai and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. The abrogation of Article 370 would pave the way for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, so far leading lives of second class citizens, to join the mainstream of the nation, Nadda said in Bengaluru. The leaders said the decision will pave the way for development of the state and reservation benefits will now be extended to various communities in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The world has stood by India on its action of abrogating provisions of Article 370 while Pakistan stands isolated in the world, Nadda said. The BJP's prime objective of protecting the integrity of the nation and its development agenda led to the decision for abrogation of Article 370, Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said. "The special status accorded to Kashmir earlier had made it a haven for terrorists," the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers said addressing a public awareness programme on Article 370, organised by the Udupi district unit of BJP at Manipal on Saturday. Gowda said even Congress leaders, including Karan Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, had appreciated the Centres decision on Kashmir. Union Minister Jitendra Singh urged Mulsim community not to be misguided by the propaganda by "vested interests" that they would lose their majority position in Jammu and Kashmir after revocation of its special status. Singh also warned against linking nullification of the Article 370 to religion, saying the Narendra Modi government would not tolerate any mischief and will punish those speaking against the country's interest. He also sought to assure people that in any case the detained leaders would not suffer the same fate of 18-month detention that many prominent BJP leaders had undergone during the Emergency. Singh made the remarks while addressing a BJP's rally organised in Jammu. BJP office-bearers and Union ministers have been meeting intellectuals and other prominent persons from different walks and addressing public meeting under the recently-launched two-pronged campaign -- "Vyapak Jansampark and Jan Jagran Abhiyan (public awareness campaign)" -- to create awareness about the Union government's August 5 decision on Jammu and Kashmir. "The main objective of these meetings is to inform people about the benefits of removing Article 370 and 35-A so that the narrative against it could be effectively countered," a party leader said. The Opposition has, however, termed it as a diversionary tactic by the BJP to evade answering questions on economy and other key issues The campaign began with BJP chief Amit Shah along with the party's Working president JP Nadda and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan meeting former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Jagmohan at his residence in Delhi on September 3.PTI ND AR NAC GMS VIT RTRT