As the controversy over the release of Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam continued to rage, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday the Centre's priority is national security and not the government in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is a coalition partner.
Under intense attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Peoples Democratic Party, however, had defended the decision and said the step was taken to facilitate creation of a conducive atmosphere for talks with separatists.
In the face of protests by the opposition in Parliament, the minister also said the Centre is not satisfied with J-K government's report on Alam's release and has sought clarification.
"Our priority is not any particular government. The country's security is more important for us. We will not compromise country's security," the minister told reporters.
The BJP too said it had a "zero -tolerance policy towards terrorism and separatism" and did not agree with the move.
Asked about the issue which has rocked the PDP-BJP alliance within days of its government taking charge in J-K, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that not only did it not agree with the way that Masarat, a Hurriyat hardliner, was released, but it was also against the decision.
"BJP adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and separatism and will not bow down by allowing soft or weak policy on these issues," he said.
"The manner in which a separatist leader has been released, BJP does not agree with it. We are against it. It is wrong," he said, adding that the home minister had made it clear in both Houses of Parliament on Monday.
"The home minister is keeping a close watch on the issue and whatever will happen will be as per the Constitution and as per the law," he said.
A delegation of J-K BJP leaders will meet party president Amit Shah on Tuesday and apprise him of the meeting they had on Monday with CM Sayeed.
'J-K govt will follow court order'
Unfazed by the controversy over the release of Alam, the PDP said on Tuesday the Jammu and Kashmir government will go by the court's directives on release of political prisoners.
"Whatever the Supreme Court and courts tell us, we are going to abide by that (on release of political prisoners in future)", senior PDP leader and state minister for sports, Imran Raza Ansari, told reporters on the sidelines of a sports event in Jammu.
Asked whether the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government has written to New Delhi assuring it that the policy to release political prisoners will be put on hold, Raza said, "Whatever law says... whatever courts direct us... we have been maintaining this".
On the issue of consulting coalition partner the BJP or New Delhi, Raza said, "We are implementing authorities (of court orders)".
"We are doing political reconciliation. Let that happen," he said.
BJP legislators in Jammu and Kashmir had on Monday lodged a strong protest with chief minister Sayeed over the release of Alam and demanded his re-arrest.
The party had also taken exception to the "misinformation campaign" that the decision to release Alam was taken after consulting it.
According to sources, a delegation of J-K BJP leaders met Sayeed and handed a memorandum to him on the issue of Alam's release while conveying the party leadership's "annoyance" to him over the matter.
The party leaders conveyed to Sayeed that the decision to release Alam was not discussed with BJP and done unilaterally, which was against the agenda of the Common Minimum Programme agreed between the allies.
Opposition in Parliament
The Centre has been pushed on the back foot over this issue with the opposition seeking an explanation on the issue in both Houses of Parliament. This led to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarifying on Monday that the Centre was not consulted on the matter.
In Lok Sabha, Modi had denounced Alam's release by the J-K government saying he shared the "outrage" over the unacceptable decision and would take whatever action was required.
"I assure the country and the House that whatever is happening there (in J-K), the Union government was neither consulted nor informed... Government does not accept such action.
"In one voice, we express our anger against those supporting separatists and misusing the law. In the coming days, we will take whatever action is required and we are committed to the nation's integrity," Modi had said.
Even on Tuesday, opposition parties stepped up pressure on the government over reports that the J-K government was planning to release 800 more separatists and sought to know if the state's governor has mentioned this in his report to the Centre.
After Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal and others raised the issue in Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government was ready to respond to any specific case brought to its notice.
Agarwal also wanted to know whether the Centre could give an assurance that no more separatists will be released by the Sayeed government in J-K.
Congress' Rajeev Shukla also sought to know if the orders for Alam's release were signed by the governor and if they were issued when the state was under President's rule.
AIADMK members claimed 10,000 separatist prisoners are about to be released in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jaitley said the home minister had on Monday made it absolutely clear that he had certain reservations about the report received from the state government on the release of one separatist and had sought more information.
Maintaining that the government will "find out and give response" if a specific case was given, he said "let a notice be given with authentic facts. The House cannot be media-driven".
The nation is our priority, and not the govt (J&K): HM Rajnath Singh pic.twitter.com/G461M17BJE
— ANI (@ANI_news) March 10, 2015