Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said it was time for a referendum in Pakistan to determine whether its citizens wished to merge with India. Addressing a public gathering at Haridwar in the poll-bound Uttarakhand, the Union minister comments came on a day when Pakistan observed the annual Kashmiri Solidarity Day in support of Kashmiris caught in protests across Pak Occupied Kashmir.
“Rokiye ye maang karne walo ki Kashmir mein janmat sangrah hona chahey… Ham ye sawal khara karna chahte hain ki janmat sangrah Pakistan mein hone chahey (Stop these demands of a referendum on Kashmir…We want to demand a referendum on Pakistan)” Singh, who addressed two rallies in Haridwar (rural) to mobilise support for BJP for the February 15 assembly polls, said.
“(The referendum) is for whether Pakistanis want to remain in their country or merge with India,” he added.
Kashmir has remained a contentious issue between the two countries, with bilateral relations souring considerably in the last year. Following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2015, Kashmir was plunged into a violent state of unrest, witnessing its longest period of curfew.
Diplomatic relations turned for the worse after militants attacked an army camp in Uri in north Kashmir in September, killing 19 soldiers, an attack India squarely blamed on Pakistan. New Delhi further used global diplomacy in an attempt to corner Pakistan into taking action against militants sheltering in its country.
Within a fortnight, India announced having carried out surgical strikes along the Line of Control, taking out militant launch pads, a claim Pakistan has dismissed as untrue. However, the announcement led to an increase of border violations, often trapping civilian villages in between.
“We want peaceful relations with Pakistan but time and again Pakistan is responsible for notorious activities,” Rajnath said, adding, “Through surgical strikes, we have showed the world that even we can take strong action. India is a peace loving country but however, it is no longer a soft nation.”
Pitching for the BJP in the hill state, the minister said Uttarakhand needs a strong government that can keep a check on its internal security. Terming both demonetisation and surgical strike as steps taken in the country’s interests, he said they will have long-term and good effects.
At another rally in the area from where chief minister Harish Rawat is contesting, Singh said if voted to power, the BJP will make crop loans to farmers interest free.
(With inputs from agencies)