Omar slams ‘systematic targeting’ of Kashmiris

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress over their silence against “systematic targeting” of Kashmiris in different states following the Pulwama fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy that left 44 personnel of the force dead.
Omar slams ‘systematic targeting’ of Kashmiris
Photo: Habib Naqash/GK

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress over their silence against "systematic targeting" of Kashmiris in different states following the Pulwama fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy that left 44 personnel of the force dead.

In his speech from the Red Fort, the Prime Minister had said that Kashmir issue can't be resolved through bullets, but by embracing Kashmiris, Omar said.

"We had hoped he (the PM) would keep politics aside and say something. We had hoped he would say that whatever the governor (of Meghalaya who called for a boycott of Kashmiris) said was wrong and he shouldn't have said it. But we haven't heard anything," said Omar.

Following the attack on February 14, many Kashmiris including students and businessmen have been targeted by mobs in different states, forcing hundreds of students to return to their homes in the Valley.

Across India, particular in some states, a community is being targeted under a plan, and its image tarnished, Omar said.

"There are many such areas where from reports are coming about Kashmiris being targeted. Our sons and daughters have gone for higher education to outside state and have nothing to do with politics and Kashmir issue. But they are being targeted, threatened and sent back. If I say their number is in hundreds it will be less because from everywhere we get news that our students are being forced out," the former chief minister said.

"What is our crime? Is it that J&K is the only Muslim majority state…Is that the reason we are being punished repeatedly," Omar asked.

Referring to "silence" of Prime Minister over these attacks, Omar said: "If the PM was busy, at least the home minister could have said that such things won't be allowed and assured strict action against those who harass Kashmiris, including students, outside".

Omar referred to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal to people for maintaining calm in the aftermath of Mumbai attack in 2008.

He said Singh called for calm and ensured that there was no attempt to take law in one's own hands and there was no selective targeting of a particular community.

He said while the scale of 26/11 attack was far greater than the Pulwama attack, people of J&K are experiencing the fallout.

"It would not have been unfair to expect our current PM to take out a leaf from Manmohan Singh and appeal to the country to not do this. This is a Prime Minister who has said those who criticise the new train should be punished. For some reason, criticising a train is more worrisome to our Prime Minister than assaulting and demonising an entire community. This is a prime minister whose priorities, I am sorry, I fail to understand," Omar said.

Omar also attacked Congress, saying while the PM was silent, the leadership of Congress also remained silent.

He said people of Kashmir were expecting to hear two words of sympathy and moral support from Congress.

"Today, they held a press conference and talked about everything. But they should have talked about systematic targeting (of Kashmiris) as well…we regret the Congress has not raised its voice against these forces effectively who are targeting Kashmiris. These are the same forces the party says it is fighting against," he said.

Attacking the BJP, Omar said these attacks "seem" to have support and approval of the party which is ruling at the Centre.

"We had thought these are miscreants trying to exploit a situation, but it seems that these powers have not only approval but the blessing of the party which is at the Centre," Omar said.

In response to another question, Omar said it would be shortsightedness on his part to suggest the forthcoming elections have nothing to do with it.

He, however, said he doesn't have firm evidence to suggest BJP was supporting the attacks on Kashmiris outside. "But there is definitely a silence."

Asked whether Congress was also maintaining silence over the attack on Kashmiris owing to the elections, Omar said he hoped that was not the case.

"That would be a great disservice to the country. The country needs an alternative to the BJP, not BJP's B-team," he said.

About of security to separatists and 155 'political persons' in J&K, Omar said the security was provided to them by successive governments based on threat perception. The government has today chosen to withdraw the security, he said.

"Two prominent separatist leaders, Moulvi Mohammad Farooq sahib and Abdul Gani Lone sahib who, at some point of time supported dialogue for resolution of Kashmir, were killed by militants".

"The provision of security to them was a considered decision of the governments in the past, be it BJP or Congress-led government. Today this government has taken a different view and it is for them to explain how they will deal with this," Omar said. "My concern goes beyond the separatist security withdrawal. My concern is about withdrawal (of security) to mainstream political operatives."

On the one hand, Omar said, the government was asking them to prepare for elections and on the other, it is telling the mainstream politicians that they longer deserve the protection of the state.

"People who like Shah Faesal or others from PDP whose security has been withdrawn—to what extent will their mobility and their ability to occupy political space be hampered by this decision. I believe the withdrawal of security to mainstream political leaders and office-bearers is a hugely regressive step. We appeal to the governor to revisit this decision," Omar said.

If the decision is not reviewed, we will approach the court to seek the papers based on which the decision (to provide security) was taken, Omar said.

Omar asked governor Satya Pal Malik to ensure that the students who have returned don't suffer on the academic front. 

"Arrangements should be made so they don't suffer academic losses," he said.

Responding to another question about offers from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks, Omar said talks can't be held in the backdrop of Pulwama-like attacks.

"You (Pakistan) need to take some concrete measures for that (talks to happen)," he said.

Referring to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments of stern action after Pulwama attack, Omar said such a response was not possible in the current scenario.

"Such a reply is not possible in the current situation, particularly now, with the Pakistani Prime Minister saying that not only will Pakistan think of responding but will respond," Omar said.

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