New Delhi: A “majority lynching of the Constitution” took place when views and consent of the state assembly of Jammu and Kashmir were not taken by the Narendra Modi government while abrogating Article 370, Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), said Friday at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall event in Hyderabad.
Owaisi addressed many questions regarding the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Democracy Wall is a free-speech campus initiative by ThePrint, and its latest edition is being held at the CMR College of Engineering & Technology in Hyderabad Friday. Rapper Sonia Ashraf, actor Nimrit Kaur, Factly founder Rakesh Dubuddu and IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari are others speakers at the event.
Calling the Narendra Modi government’s move a “breach of constitutional promise made by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel”, the MP from Hyderabad said it was one of the three major mistakes made in Jammu and Kashmir.
“After the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and rigging of elections in the region in 1987, abrogation of Article 370 is the third major mistake,” said Owaisi, reiterating the point he had earlier made in Parliament.
In conversation with ThePrint’s Rohini Swamy, Owaisi condemned the communication restrictions imposed in parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
‘No communication ban during Telangana agitation’
Citing the statement issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which called the communication blackout “a form of collective punishment for the people of Jammu and Kashmir”, Owaisi said freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right.
“We have 8 lakh forces for 80 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir. What message are we sending out?” Owaisi asked.
Recalling the agitation that took place prior to Telangana’s formation, he said no communication restrictions were imposed in the region even then. “After the JP movement in Bihar, the Telangana agitation was the most organised and aggressive mobilisation I have witnessed. But even then communication wasn’t banned.”
Answering a question on whether or not he plans to visit Kashmir, Owaisi said, “With what face will I go to Kashmir? If I imprison someone, take away their freedom of thought and expression, their right to assemble and liberty, and then go and say let’s talk, won’t that person just laugh at me?”
Calling the move a retrograde step taken by the Modi government, the MP said the Centre’s actions have “finished off those people who were holding the Indian flag in the Valley, who were participating in the Indian elections”.
Owaisi also said communication restrictions is no way to promote democracy. “If I tell an audience that you will have to sit here for 10 hours, with no WiFi and communication with the outside world…there are bound to be some emotional young boys and girls who will not stand this.”
‘Muslims can no longer be coolies of secularism’
Addressing another question on where he sees Indian Muslims in the next two decades, Owaisi said the BJP wants to make the community a second class population in India.
But, he said, the Muslims must fight back.
“We should realise that we can no longer be coolies of secularism. Why should our vote go to so-called secular parties?” Owaisi asked.
He added that Muslims must find political leadership from within their community. “They must realise that participating in elections is as important as voting. This is the only way to ensure that constitutional rights are given to us.”
Owaisi said, “The BJP came to power despite Muslims not voting for them. When I talk about these things, I am called communal. But remember, Muslims are the only community which did not vote for the BJP.”
On the question of Muslim representation in politics, Owaisi said there were zero Muslim BJP MPs. “PM Modi could have given a ticket to a woman who was a victim of triple talaq and ask his supporters to vote for her. But he didn’t.”