Downgrading J&K was a humiliation, won't contest assembly elections till J&K remains UT: Omar Abdullah

File Photo Omar Abdullah

Terming the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories as a humiliation, former J&K Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah has said that he won’t contest assembly elections till the statehood is not restored to J&K.

“As for me, I am very clear that while J&K remains a Union Territory I will not be contesting any Assembly elections. Having been a member of the most empowered Assembly in the land and that, too, as the leader of that Assembly for six years, I simply cannot and will not be a member of a House that has been disempowered the way ours has,” Abdullah wrote in an op-ed for the Indian Express newspaper.

He said that his party will continue to fight against the revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir in the courts. “We, in the J&K National Conference, do not agree with what has been done to J&K nor do we accept what has been done. We shall oppose this, our opposition will continue in the highest court in the land in the form of the legal challenge filed in the Supreme Court last year,” he wrote.

The NC Vice-president said that the BJP pushing through with the removal of Article 370 was understandable, as it was the party’s poll plank for decades. “Truth be told, the BJP pushing this wasn’t a complete surprise — it was part of its poll agenda for decades. What came as a shock was the humiliation heaped on the state by downgrading it and splitting it into two Union Territories. Over the last seven decades, Union Territories have been upgraded to states but this was the first time a state was downgraded to a Union Territory,” he said.”
To this day, I fail to understand the need for this move, except to punish and humiliate the people of the state. If the reason for carving out a separate Union Territory for Ladakh was the public demand among the Buddhist population of the area, then the demand for a separate state for the people of Jammu is a much older demand. If the demand was conceded on religious grounds, then it ignored the fact that Leh and Kargil districts, which together make up the Union Territory of Ladakh, are Muslim majority and the people of Kargil are vehemently opposed to the idea of being separated from J&K.”

Maintaining that his party has always believed in democracy and peaceful opposition, Abdullah said: “Sadly these very democratic rights were trampled on a year ago. Dozens of mainstream politicians were placed in “preventive arrest” and many more under illegal house arrest. In fact, a number of these leaders are still under illegal detention a year later.”

He said the National Conference has lost thousands of workers and office-bearers to militant violence because of our choice to remain a mainstream political party while opposing the separatist politics that grew in the late 1980s. “Given the orchestrated campaign against mainstream political parties in most of the national media, particularly at the hands of the ruling dispensation, it’s easy to find oneself asking whether the sacrifices were worth it,” he wrote.

Abdullah said that he will continue to represent the aspirations of the people while “we fight against the injustices heaped on J&K in the last one year.”
Hitting out at the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, Abdullah said that many reasons were given to justify the complete dilution of Article 370 when it was being rammed through Parliament, none stands the test of basic scrutiny.

“It was alleged that Article 370 has fuelled separatism and allowed militant violence to thrive in Kashmir, an end was supposed to herald the end of terrorism. If that be the case, then why is it that almost a year later the same Union government is forced to tell the Supreme Court that violence in J&K is increasing?” he asked.

He also tried to debunk the myth that Article 370 had kept the people of J&K in poverty. “Even a cursory glance at poverty figures would show that J&K has some of the lowest levels of poverty in the country. Article 370 was alleged to have denied J&K investment. Prior to the outbreak of militancy in the state, J&K was amongst the most progressive states with a growing industrial base and impressive investment in manufacturing. Tourism was a sector that was coming into its own as far as investments were concerned. What has stopped J&K from attracting investment is the security environment and that’s why a year after the momentous changes there has been no investment worth the mention,” Abdullah wrote.

He has criticised the voices claiming that Article 370 was always meant to be a temporary provision. “What they forget to add to this sentence is that it was temporary because of the little matter of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1947 of 1948, but that’s an entirely different op-ed in itself,” he wrote.