The Jammu and Kashmir Congress strongly defended its leader and Health Minister, Sham Lal Sharma over his controversial 'azadi for Kashmir' remarks and described him as a "bold voice" of the party, in a statement on Tuesday. Sharma was quoted out of context and the minister was in fact talking about forces wanting to divide the state, Vice President and spokesperson of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee, Mohammad Muzaffar Parray said.
"He (Sharma) actually wanted to alert the (Congress) party rank and file against some detractors," Parray said, adding that, "Sharma was a bold voice of the party in state cabinet." Parray's support to Sharma is an unexpected development, as the AICC high command has already issued a showcause notice to the minister over his remarks.
On December 5 this year, Sharma, at a public meeting at Bani in Jammu region, had said Kashmir should be granted 'azadi' while Jammu should get statehood and Ladakh be declared a Union Territory. "You need to come out of the Kashmir centric approach. I tell Congress, if you want autonomy or self rule for Kashmir then you need to separate Jammu as a state and declare Ladakh as a Union Territory," Sharma had said.
Parray said the remarks of the minister were in response to the inflammatory statements made by some leaders of the National Conference, the coalition partner of the Congress in the state, against their party. "Whatsoever has been attributed to him by various newspapers for having advocated for trifurcation of state is not correct as same has been quoted out of context," Parray said, considered to be a close aide of PCC President Saifuddin Soz.
Parray was referring to statements made by Mustafa Kamal, NC leader and uncle of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, in which he accused Congress of betraying the people of Kashmir time and again. "This can be said without any reservation that Sharma is a great supporter of the integrity of the state," Parray said, adding that the minister "firmly believes" in the unity and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir.