BJP leader and Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad delivering a speech. Photo: AFP
BJP leader and Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Photo: AFP

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a scathing attack against the opposition Indian National Congress party on Friday after senior Congress leaders made controversial remarks about Kashmir and the Indian Army.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s sparked the latest political mud-slinging match by claiming Indian security forces in the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir had killed more civilians than terrorists. Azad’s comment was “shameful, irresponsible and deeply regrettable,” BJP leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media.

“Do the senior Congress leaders, because of their pathological hatred against prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, that they are seeking to compromise the courage and the respect even for the armed forces?” he asked. Azad’s comments was demoralizing the army, he added.

The Congress party is “designed to make observations and political behavior in sync with terrorists and their patrons,” said Prasad, referring to a statement released by United Nations designated terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which supported Azad’s comment.

“We have been of the same opinion as of the expressions of Ghulam Nabi Azad and others since the beginning. India is up to bringing back the era of Jagmohan by imposing the Governor law so as to sabotage the infrastructure and commit a massacre of innocents. It is a move to further intensify the mass killings,” the LeT statement said.

The comments came after the government of Jammu and Kashmir fell as the BJP withdrew from its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party, pushing the state under Governor’s Rule. Also, a recent report by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights cited rights abuses in Kashmir and called for an inquiry.

Prasad, who dismissed Azad’s unsubstantiated claims about the number of civilians dying, boasted that under the BJP’s rule more terrorists were neutralized than under Congress. He claimed that in 2012, 72 terrorists died in Kashmir and 67 in 2016. After the BJP came to power in May 2014, he said as many as 110 terrorists were neutralized that year, followed by 108 in 2015, 150 in 2016 and 217 in 2017.

However, the high number of terrorist deaths in 2017 also came with a high number of civilian deaths. According to a Home Ministry report, there was a 167% rise in death of civilians in Kashmir compared with 2015. “The year 2017 witnessed an increase in incidents of terrorist violence and causalities of civilians as compared to the last year,” the report said. More than 100 of the civilian deaths were due to retaliation by security forces against stone-throwing protesters, the majority of them young people.

The BJP also attacked Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Saifuddin Soz for his comments supporting former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s stance on Kashmir.

“Musharraf said Kashmiris don’t want to merge with Pakistan, their first choice is independence. The statement was true then and remains true now also. I say the same but I know that it is not possible,” Soz told ANI.

The BJP has threatened Congress to not cross the line regarding Kashmir and “empower separatist forces.” “I warn the Congress leaders the country will not tolerate this,” said Prasad. The saffron party has also asked Congress to clarify its position on Azad’s and Soz’s comments.

Meanwhile, four terrorists were among six people killed on Friday, the other two being a civilian and a security personnel, in an encounter in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. According to police, the terrorists belonged to the Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir.