SRINAGAR: Two years after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated and he was detained for 234 days, National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said on Wednesday that after initially being “deeply jaded” he had realised that as a politician he didn’t have the right to “mourn” for long and could not let down the people struggling for their basic constitutional rights.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution, the former chief minister of the erstwhile state which has been bifurcated into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, said that what had been done on August 5 had come as a shock to most people who were affected by the “sudden, unexpected and unconstitutional blow”.
Abdullah, who spent seven months in detention which was challenged in the Supreme Court, recalled, “I was a deeply jaded and disappointed individual. I found it difficult to motivate myself even to indulge in basic political activities possible in the prevailing situation. But as the saying goes ‘if you want the rainbow, you have got to put up with rain’. So here I am doing the best I can for the people.”
He said that the workers and leaders of the National Conference had made immense sacrifices for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Hundreds of our workers and several of our leaders have fallen to the bullets of militants. I thought of all this when a certain light inside me was getting dimmer during my solitary confinement. I realised I could not just walk away,” he told PTI.
There is no doubt in Abdullah’s mind that the abrogation of Article 370 was unconstitutional which had been challenged as such on behalf of his party in the Supreme Court. “I have hope and faith in the Supreme Court which had said that they could turn the clock back if merited. I am sure that someday justice will be done to the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” the NC vice president said.
Answering a question on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with mainstream leaders of Jammu and Kashmir on June 24, Abdullah said that the initiative needs to be followed up on the ground to produce meaningful results.
“The prime minister candidly spoke of reducing the “doori” (distance), both physical and mental, between Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. We now await the start of the follow-up to that meeting,” he said.
“There is so much talk of development, development. We would welcome that if it really happened. The administration needs to go beyond inaugurating projects for which work had begun during the time of elected governments,” the NC leader said.
About the claims of substantial improvement in the law and order situation, he said, “You cannot gag the people and then claim all is well. In the last two years people are not allowed to do even peaceful protests. The due process of law is ignored. On the one hand a rosy picture of the situation is painted and on the other hand the Centre tells Parliament that statehood will be restored when the situation normalises.”
In any case, the people cannot any longer continue to be deprived of an elected government through free and fair elections in a full-fledged state, Abdullah emphasised. Both restoration of statehood and holding of early elections have been promised at the highest levels by the Centre.
“That should be the order — restoration of full, undiluted statehood, followed by Assembly elections. There is no better way to reduce, to a large extent, the trust deficit to which the prime minister obliquely referred,” he said.
Abdullah was categorical that he would not be contesting elections for the foreseeable future but made it clear, “I will continue to be with our people and serve them even if I am not in the Assembly.”