Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah who, according to his critics, has as a politician grown accustomed to setting off controversies, said in his latest harangue that the people of Kashmir do not feel Indian and do not want to be as such.
“Today Kashmiris do not feel Indian and do not want to be Indian. They are slaves. They would rather have the Chinese rule them,” he said in an interview to veteran journalist and television commentator Karan Thapar.
Reacting sharply to the government’s doing away with the ‘1927 State Subject Law’ and replacing it with new domicile law in what is now called as the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah said, “Every Kashmiri believes the new domicile laws are intended to create a Hindu majority. The gap between Kashmiris and the rest of the country is wider than ever before and growing.” He added that alleged attempts to change the demography of J&K have further embittered the Kashmiri people.
He accused Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, of “deceiving” and keeping him in the dark about the Centre’s plan to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcating J&K. He said, “Modi deliberately deceived me in August 2019 but I will fight to restore the dignity of Kashmiris till my last breath. The Abdullahs and Muftis have come together in Kashmir’s greater interest and now Mehbooba (Mufti) is politically close to Omar (Abdullah) and me. I speak to her frequently”.
Revealing the details of his meeting with the Prime Minister roughly 72 hours before August 5, 2019 when J&K was stripped of its special status and split up into two UTs, he said that he had met Modi to seek his assurances about the continuation of Articles 370 and 35A. He said that he asked the Prime Minister why there were so many troops in the Valley and whether this was because of any perceived military threat.
He suggested the Prime Minister deliberately went out of his way to give him the impression the massive increase in troops was for security purposes. He said the Prime Minister did not say a word about Articles 370 and 35A. Consequently, he emerged from that meeting believing the two Articles were not in danger. When asked he agreed that the Prime Minister had misled and deceived him.
The Senior Abdullah who is a member of Lok Sabha representing home constituency Srinagar said in the interview which has been published by The Wire alleged that the Kashmiris are being treated like second class citizens and hence are “slaves.”
He also said that it was a “complete rubbish” for the BJP to claim that the people of Kashmir have accepted the August 2019 changes just because there have been no protests. He said if the soldiers on every street and Section 144 were to be lifted people will come out in their tens of lakhs.
Asked how Kashmiris view the Central government and, in particular, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Abdullah said they were deeply disillusioned. He said they had no trust in the Central government. He added that the trust that once bound Kashmir to the rest of the country has completely snapped.
He said that in August 2019, when the constitutional changes were suddenly announced, the NC and all other mainstream political parties stood badly discredited in Kashmiri eyes. Speaking of himself, he said he seemed to have fallen between two stools. The Indian government viewed him as a traitor and arrested him. Kashmiris, on the other hand, saw him as a servant of India and said things like ‘serves Abdullah right’ and chided him and taunted him for having said Bharat Mata Ki Jai. This left him deeply shaken and upset.
He, however, claimed that after 7-8 months in detention his standing and that of his party and other mainstream parties has been considerably restored in Kashmiri eyes. People now realize they are not “servants of India”, he asserted.
He said that the NC and, in fact, all the other parties that had come together to issue the Gupkar Declaration of August 2019, which was reiterated on August 22 this year, were committed to restoring the dignity of Kashmiris. He said this meant reinstating Articles 370 and 35A and restoring statehood. He said he would fight for this – but always peacefully – till his last breath.
The former chief minister said that he had faith in the Supreme Court and hoped that they would stop postponing the petition his party has brought and hear it expeditiously. In the interview he, in fact, appealed to Supreme Court judges to hear the constitutional case quickly.
Asked why he had not raised this matter during the present session of Parliament, he said he wasn’t given time. He said he had gone to meet the Speaker, along with MPs from Congress, Trinamool, DMK and the Communist Parties, and the Speaker had assured them time for a discussion would be allocated. But that never happened. Asked if he believed the government had intervened and told the Speaker not to give time, Abdullah said he did not know but agreed the Speaker had not kept his word.
In reply to another question, he said that in the greater interest of Kashmir the Mufti and Abdullah families have buried their past differences and come together. He asked why PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who also is a former chief minister of J&K has not been released and if “she is a criminal?”
Asked if her incarceration has begun to affect her, Abdullah asked a question in return: “How can it not? She is a human being after all.”
He said whether the NC will contest the next state elections is a decision that will be taken, first, democratically within the NC itself and he, as its president, will not impose his personal thinking. However, he added that the decision will also be taken in concert with all the other Gupkar Declaration signatories.