Economic blockade is separatists’ propaganda: Arun Jaitley


New Delhi : There was no economic blockade of the Kashmir valley as part of the agitation on the Amarnath land row, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Arun Jaitley has said, terming as lies claims in this regard by separatist leaders from the Kashmir valley.

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In an interview to Karan Thapar for his “Devil’s Advocate” programme on the CNN-IBN channel, Jaitley said: “The separatists lied to the whole country, to the whole world saying that Hindu colonisation would come up in the valley. The separatists lied to the world saying there is an economic blockade.”

He accused both the central and Jammu and Kashmir governments of not countering the separatists’ propaganda on the “economic blockade”.

“We (BJP) were the ones who are countering it (claims of economic blockade) and today we are the ones who are saying that the land transfer is pursuant to a law enacted by the state legislature, pursuant to a direction of the high court, why should it not be implemented,” Jaitley said in the interview to be aired Sunday night.

“Anybody who says that there was an economic blockade is trying to give weight to the falsehood spread by the separatists. The army’s position is there is no blockade, the government of India’s position is there is no blockade, the (Shri Amarnath) Sangharsh Samiti told us there was never a blockade and there won’t be a blockade.”

The Samiti, a conglomerate of 40 Hindu groups, is leading the agitation in Jammu seeking transfer of government land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

But the Rajya Sabha MP conceded that BJP ministers in Punjab had obstructed a highway even as he maintained that it was a “disruption” and not a “blockade and “lasted only one day”.

Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley have been on the boil for about two months on the issue of transferring 40 hectares of forest land near Baltal to the SASB for pilgrim facilities.

The state government’s decision in May to transfer the land led to widespread protests in the valley and the order was revoked July 1. However, the government’s backtracking led to violent protests in Jammu region – revealing a communal divide over the issue.

Jaitley, however, agreed that business was bound to suffer because of a series of shutdowns and curfew in Jammu and Kashmir.

Commenting on claims of separatist leaders that fruits were rotting in Kashmir due to the ‘blockade’, he said: “I have gone to the valley myself. We asked the army, the district administration as to what is the position. They gave us figures. This was not the apple season, this was the babbugosha (pear) season.”

He said he was told that nothing was lying in stock – there were 90 trucks at the fruit and vegetable market and there was nothing to be loaded on them.

“It was a false propaganda. And fall in the traffic could be because of the bandh (shutdown) and curfew. The fall was not because of any economic blockade,” he said.

On Kashmir, he said: “I do not accept the proposition of Kashmir being disputed. It may be Pakistan’s unfinished agenda after Independence… The outstanding issue only is, and I reiterate it, that Pakistan must accept that Kashmir is (an) integral part of India and India in any circumstances will not barter away an inch of its territory.”