Former minister and National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar on Sunday said the party was showing urgency and seriousness to reverse the decisions that government of India took on 5 August 2019.
In an interview with Greater Kashmir, Sagar said that NC leadership despite being “suppressed” by the government was “confident and positive” for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
“In the basic political agenda and the principle stand of the NC vis-a-vis Kashmir, restoration of Article 370 is at the top. Despite sacrifices and facing difficulties, there is no change in our stand,” said Sagar.
Sagar said that signatories to the Gupkar Declaration, who passed a resolution recently, were keen on meeting President of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for pressing their demand for restoration of J&K’s special status.
“We can go to any limit and all parties to the Gupkar Declaration may together meet the PM and the President of India. We want to convey it to them that special status was our right which the constitution of India and the Parliament had entitled people of J&K for,” Sagar said.
Reacting to a recent statement of NC leader Aga Ruhulla, that he will leave the party, if it did not show urgency in restoration of Article 370, Sagar said: “Ruhulla sahab participated in a party meeting recently and was satisfied with the statements of party president about our seriousness for restoration of special status. I appreciate his concern, but if he now has any doubts about our concern for restoration of special status, he has every right to express it in the party forums,” Sagar said.
When asked as to why there was delay in holding the much-awaited working committee meeting of the party to finalise NC’s political agenda, Sagar said the meeting shall be held soon.
“We recently held a political affairs committee meeting and now Dr Farooq is very eager for the working committee meeting. In the PAC meeting it was decided that decisions taken by it would be endorsed by the working committee meeting. Once these decisions are passed in the working committee, our concern about restoration of Article 370 would be clearer,” Sagar said.
The senior NC leader said that the stand of NC with regard to special status was being “justified (sic) from every other political party”.
“We had always said that Article 370 was a bridge between J&K and the rest of the country. Gupkar Declaration is a struggle to get the special status back for which all the parties have supported in one voice,” Sagar said.
Sagar said the common perception that Members of Parliament from NC should have resigned after the special constitutional status of J&K was scrapped “is not a practical solution”.
“. . . would their resignation ensure restoration of Article 370? If that is the solution, they will not waste a minute to resign. They are rather going and putting up a fight inside the Parliament. Dr Farooq sahab demonstrated outside the parliament along with other MPs but unfortunately in the zero hour of Parliament he was allotted only one minute to speak on the issue of Article 370 despite giving a notice to the speaker of the house,” Sagar said.
“Two of our MPs, Hasnain Masoodi and Akbar Lone sahab demonstrated in the well of the Parliament but it was blacked out on national TV. The government of India is misleading the country. Let them hold a special session of the Parliament to discuss the aftermath of Article 370 revocation and everything would be in front of us in black and white,” Sagar said.
When asked if all parties which were signatories of the Gupkar Declaration would remain united, Sagar said: “All the parties have endorsed the decision and said they are ready to support the group led by Dr Farooq Abdullah. Even parties in Ladakh are now setting a condition of getting back special status before contesting elections.”
Sagar said by asking for restoration of special status, NC was reaffirming that the way special constitutional status was scrapped was “unconstitutional”. He said the government of India “has started realising that scrapping special status of J&K was not in favour of the country.”
“The founders of the country had provided the special status to J&K with a long term vision. By asking for special status we are not asking for something like azadi or Pakistan but just pointing out that the way it was scrapped was unconstitutional and the decisions taken on 5 August last year must be reversed,” Sagar said.
Commenting on the scope for mainstream political activities in J&K, Sagar said: “The way political activities used to happen without any restrictions, was completely democratic. But today our security escorts have been withdrawn and we are being constantly told not to visit certain areas for which the government is citing reasons of a security threat. Conducive atmosphere lacks for political activities to begin,” Sagar said.
“Mehbooba Mufti whose party had an alliance with the BJP, (they have) turned from friends to foes. She has been illegally detained and must be released immediately,” Sagar said.
On NC vice-president Omar Abdullah’s statement that he would not contest elections till J&K remains a UT, Sagar said: “Whether, and how, to contest polls when they happen will be discussed in the soon to be held working committee meeting. GoI has itself said that statehood will be restored. Election is no agenda right now as we all are saying that hold elections only after restoration of the special status of J&K.”
Sagar said there was a huge “governance deficit” in Jammu and Kashmir and developmental projects had been languishing for a long time. “The J&K administration is indulging only in photo-ops and there are no officials available to address people’s issues. The Back to Village programme of the government has yielded no concrete end result as it lacks a proper follow up from the officials,” Sagar said.