National Conference (NC) workers on Thursday paid tributes to the party’s founder Sheikh Abdullah on the occasion of his 114th birth anniversary at his mausoleum and party headquarters, in the first political function organised by a non-BJP party in Kashmir Valley after the nullification of Article 370.
During the events, no NC leader spoke about the contentious issues of withdrawal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcation of the state into Union territories, which came into effect from October 31.
Police had put up concertina wires outside the gate of the mausoleum at Hazratbal here to prevent any large congregation, but allowed a few party workers who turned up there one by one to offer prayers.
NC Lok Sabha member Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi was the lone senior member of the party to offer ‘fateha’ (special prayers) at the mausoleum.
Sheikh Abdullah’s son Mustafa Kamal and grandson Muzaffar Shah tried to visit the mausoleum but were stopped by the police outside their residences.
Every year, the birth anniversary of Abdullah father of NC president Farooq Abdullah would turn out to be a grand affair with hundreds of party leaders and workers gathering at the mausoleum to pay their respects to the former chief minister of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
On his death anniversary — September 8 — too, party leaders and workers would converge at the mausoleum to pay homage to the NC founder.
However, this time most of the top-level and second-rung mainstream politicians, including NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, have been either detained or placed under house arrest since the night of August 4, hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370.
Farooq Abdullah, three-time chief minister and sitting Lok Sabha member from Srinagar, has been detained under the controversial Public Safety Act. He is lodged at his residence in the Gupkar area of the city, which has been turned into a sub-jail. Omar Abdullah is detained at a guest house.
Talking to reporters, Masoodi said the restrictions on political activities puncture the balloon of normalcy in the Valley.
“The restrictions on Abdullah’s birth anniversary narrate their own story. It tells the people of the country about the normalcy that is being claimed. Should there have been such restrictions? Shouldn’t Abdullah’s son (Farooq Abdullah) and his grandson (Omar Abdullah) be here on this day?” he said.
Masoodi said the protest-shutdown by the people, including the business community who open their establishments for a few hours only in the morning, was a message of “public disapproval” of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
“This is a message to the people of the country that there has been a public disapproval of the decision taken by the Centre on August 5. All political activities have come to a standstill. All leaders across parties are under detention. There is no possibility of any political activity taking place,” the MP from Anantnag said.
Asked about the party’s stand post the abrogation of the special status, Masoodi said, “This struggle in a way is the fight for the supremacy of the Constitution of India because the Constitution was trampled to take such decisions.”
He said the party leaders would take a call on the way forward once the leadership is released from detention.
The party held a function at the NC headquarters Nawai-Subah where a few workers and party leaders, including Member of Parliament from north Kashmir Akbar Lone, paid tributes to Sheikh Abdullah.
No political statements were made during the function and the leaders generally focussed on paying tributes to Sheikh Abdullah.
However, NC leader Syed Akhoon later told reporters that Article 370 had been diluted by G M Sadiq in early 60s. Sadiq was the prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 1964 to 1965, when the position was renamed to Chief Minister.
Lone said that the NC had carried out a lot of development even when the state was enjoying the special status.
NC sources said 14 members of the party, including former legislators, held a special prayer meeting inside the MLA Hostel here, which has been turned into a sub-jail where several politicians are under detention.
The meeting was presided over by NC leader and general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar who offered special prayers to the party founder and paid him glowing tributes, they said.