Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah has rejected the idea of accepting the Constitution’s Article 370 as history a year after it was nullified to strip Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and semi-autonomous status. “They want us to accept that through the gun. I am not going to do that,” said Farooq Abdullah in a joint interview to HT with his son and another former chief minister, Omar Abdullah.
Farooq Abdullah rejected as lies the reasons cited for the nullification that it was discriminatory, impeded development, promoted corruption and dynastic rule, separatism, and obstructed the state’s integration with the country.
“I am living in this house [in Srinagar] since 1974 when my father was not Prime Minister or chief minister of J&K [Jammu & Kashmir]. We sold our ancestral property and with that money my father was able to buy this house for me when I was in England. Eighteen members of our family own that [the ancestral properties]. Are we that corrupt? And they said Farooq Abdullah has homes in Dubai, Paris, London, and America,” he said.
Farooq Abdullah challenged his detractors to show him where all these houses are so that he can go and occupy them. “My wife [Mollie Abdullah] is an Englishwoman. She has a home there [England]. She is entitled to her home.”
He referred to the argument that development suffered because of Article 370 and added thank God Congress leader and former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was able to prove in Rajya Sabha that the region is far better than Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. “What we are suffering from is their [the Centre’s] lack of support. To this date, rail has not arrived from Katra to Banihal. There is more separatism now than before August 5 last year [when the process for the nullification and Jammu & Kashmir’s division began].”
He said guns were booming daily and people are giving up their lives. “It is not the Pakistanis who are dying today; it is the Kashmiris. Who has created them [militants]? Not Farooq Abdullah. I was in jail. They [the government] created them. The hatred they have created between Hindus and Muslims in the rest of the nation… do you think it will not have an effect here? It will.”
Farooq Abdullah was among three former chief ministers detained as part of sweeping measures to prevent protests against the constitutional changes to Jammu & Kashmir’s status last year. He along with Omar Abdullah was released in March while another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, continues to be under detention under the draconian Public Safety Act that allows incarceration for up to two years without trial.
The father-son duo has lately been galvanising dormant cadres of their party, the region’s biggest and the oldest.
Omar Abdullah said the new reality does not mean they cannot argue against what has been done. “If dissent is the essence of democracy, then what we are doing is strengthening democracy. We are dissenting against a government decision,” he said.
He underlined the need for an understanding of how difficult it is for them. “We get fixed from both sides. The ultra-nationalists in the rest of the country treat us as separatists. But here in Kashmir, we are treated as nationalists. Please tell me what we are.”
The political environment in Jammu & Kashmir is in flux again a year after the nullification and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are at the heart of the churning following their release from detention.
Farooq Abdullah last week emerged as the pivot in the formation of a conglomerate of the Valley’s six parties that has posed the first challenge to the Centre by reaffirming commitment to the Gupkar Declaration pegged to the demand for restoration of the special status.