Will keep alive Art 370 issue: Omar Abdullah

TNN Bureau. Updated: 4/14/2024 2:12:52 AM Front Page

'Manmohan Singh was true statesman, Modi must think about his legacy'

Srinagar: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Saturday said the Supreme Court upholding the abrogation of Article 370 does not close the issue and his party will keep it alive till a dispensation comes at the Centre that is willing to discuss the restoration of special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
"This government will not remain forever. There is no power on earth that can keep Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi in office in perpetuity, there is no power on earth that can keep the BJP in office forever. Every government has a finite term, some are longer, some are shorter. Why would you assume that no government will come in future that will be unwilling to talk to us on Article 370," Abdullah said in an interview here.
Abdullah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from north Kashmir Baramulla constituency, said the Supreme Court verdict on petitions challenging abrogation of the Article 370 was unfortunate.
"I would like to believe that there will be a government in the future that will be happy to engage with us on our core issues of the special status of J-K and until that comes, we will keep our struggle alive," he said.
"We will continue to fight for it and struggle for it. A stamp of the SC does not close the issue, because if a stamp closes the issue, then we had a stamp on Article 370 much before this one and the SC found in favour of Article 370. So, yes, the recent judgement is unfortunate, but that won't stop our political fight," the former J-K chief minister said.
He claimed that several opposition parties were also on the same page. "Even now we have friends who talk in favour of the restoration of 370, whether it is in Tamil Nadu or West Bengal or the Left. We have friends outside of J-K who see eye to eye with us on the issue of 370," he added.
The former chief minister said just like the BJP did not stop talking about the abrogation of Article 370 even when it had two Lok Sabha members in the 1984 elections, his party will continue to talk about the restoration of the special status.
"When the BJP was reduced to two members of Parliament after the victory of Rajiv Gandhi following the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, did the BJP stop? It kept talking about 370 despite setbacks in court. So, our struggle (also) will not end," he said.
Asked about the "silence" of the Congress on the demand for restoration of Article 370, Abdullah said while he was disappointed, he would not blame his INDIA bloc ally.
"It is disappointing but I do not blame them. I have always maintained that J-K's special status is the legacy of the Congress party. It was not an individual who gave it, it was the government that gave it
"It was a sovereign commitment of the Union of India with the people of J-K, but you cannot escape the fact that it was the legacy of India's first prime minister. Therefore, I would have been happier if the Congress had defended its legacy a bit more.
"But, I do understand the political compulsions that make it difficult for them to do it. What I find surprising is that when people, whose legacy is the map of J-K, actually celebrate its dismemberment, that I find surprising because J-K's map is not a product of August 15, 1947, J-K's map actually predates independence. So, I would like to have seen people whose legacy is the territorial boundary of J-K perhaps defend it a bit more," he added.
On the recent protests in the Ladakh region, Abdullah said the people of Ladakh cannot be blamed for it.
"Can you blame them? Unfortunately, when this UT issue was raised, some people were fanning the flames... I used to go and tell people to be careful what you ask for because once you get it, you will regret it and you will not find a point of return.
"They felt that UT was the answer to all their problems and that somehow they have been mistreated by successive governments in J-K and the only way to escape this, is to get a UT status," he said.
Abdullah said when the Union Territory status was granted, the people of Ladakh realised that "we were not the villains".
"In fact if anything, Ladakh enjoyed a greater political say than it does now. Then you had members of the legislative council, assembly, ministers in the government here.
"Today, you are reduced to what? Just a hill council. Every time an election comes, you are lied to. How many times do the people of Ladakh want to be lied to? They were promised the Sixth Schedule. Where is that? I am not surprised that they are as unhappy as they are," he said.
A section of people in Ladakh are demanding that the Union territory be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that protects tribal populations, allowing for the creation of autonomous development councils which administer this areas with powers to make laws on land, forest management, agriculture, etc.
Abdullah said whatever solution is offered to the people of Ladakh, will have to be offered to the people of J-K also.
"Ultimately, we are born of the same womb. Until 2019, we were the same state, and therefore, if they have concerns, if they face a threat, that threat is faced by the people of J-K also.
"You may not see the visible expressions of it in Jammu or in Kashmir, but the sense of unease, it persists," he added.
He also said Manmohan Sigh was a true statesman and that Narendra Modi, at some stage, will have to start thinking about the kind of legacy he leaves behind.
Abdullah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from north Kashmir Baramulla constituency, said it was obvious that the Centre was using the probe agencies under it against the leaders of the opposition parties.
"It is not apparent, it is obvious. When 95 per cent of the cases that are being investigated or charged by the Enforcement Directorate are against (opposition ) political leaders and political parties, that tells you.
"At some point, the PM will start looking at his legacy. Right now, I think his aim is to be a PM for longer than Jawahar Lal Nehru. Once that aim is met, then, none of us get younger, we all get older. There comes a time when we have to leave the stage. I have no doubt that somewhere in the back of his mind, the PM will start thinking about what sort of a legacy he wants to leave," Abdullah said.
Asked if he thinks more opposition leaders will be targeted by the central agencies in case Prime Minister Modi secures a third term, Abdullah said, "a national newspaper did a front page story about the people who join the BJP suddenly find themselves exonerated. So, this is a reality, it is not something that we are speculating. But it is fine. It is one of the many tools that the BJP has its disposal. So be it."
Abdullah refused to name anyone as the prime ministerial face of the INDIA bloc saying the question will be discussed when the alliance has the numbers.
"Why is that a concern? Let the people vote, lets get the numbers, we will have a PM. This was not a concern when 'India Shining' was being touted and Advani lost the election. But did the alliance not give you a PM? Did that PM (Manmohan Singh) not govern successfully for ten years and did anybody at that time think that Singh will be the PM?" he said.
Abdullah said Singh has been by far one of "our more successful, and one of our more gentlemanly Prime ministers. He was truly a statesman, what you have today, they are politicians."
"He was right, he is not to be judged by the standards of 2014. History will judge him. Believe me, history will be a far fairer judge of him than perhaps people were in 2014. So, do not worry about a face," he added.

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