Srinagar: Former chief minister Omar Abdullah has said he will not fight assembly elections as long as Jammu and Kashmir remains a union territory.
In an opinion piece for The Indian Express, Abdullah has said he cannot be part of an assembly that has been “disempowered”.
“As for me, I am very clear that while J&K remains a Union Territory I will not be contesting any Assembly elections,” he wrote ahead of the first anniversary of the Narendra Modi government’s 5 August decision to strip J&K of its special status by scrapping Article 370 and divide the erstwhile state into two union territories.
“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,” he wrote.
Abdullah, the National Conference (NC) vice-president who had been kept in detention for 232 days along with father and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah and several other politicians, also dwelt on the incarcerations.
“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. “We have always believed in democracy and peaceful opposition. 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.”
‘Governor, PM Modi gave the opposite impression’
Abdullah also detailed the manner in which the decision was taken.
“The Parliament of India spent less than a day each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to change more than 70 years of history, to undo the sovereign commitments made to the people of J&K and to dismember the state,” he wrote.
Taking a shot at former J&K governor Satyapal Malik, Abdullah said, “The people were treated to categorical denials by the occupant of the highest office in the state, the Governor, that J&K’s special status faced no threat.”
The NC leader said Malik debunked all rumours, explaining that the additional forces were required for Assembly elections to be held later in the year.
“So what does one conclude from this? That the occupant of such a high office deliberately lied to the people or that he wasn’t kept informed? I know what I believe but you can draw your own conclusions,” Abdullah wrote.
The former CM also briefly talked about his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days before Article 370 was scrapped, which he said he won’t “forget in a hurry”.
“Some of us, senior office-bearers of the J&K National Conference, had a meeting with the PM just days before the August 5 developments. It’s not a meeting I will forget in a hurry. One day I may write about it but propriety precludes me from saying more than that we left the meeting with a completely different impression about what was going to unfold in the next 72 hours. In one fell swoop, everything we had feared came to pass,” Abdullah wrote.
Article 370 move wasn’t a ‘complete surprise’
Abdullah said while scrapping Article 370 had been part of the BJP’s poll agenda for decades, the division of the state into two union territories was both a surprise and a “humiliation”.
“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,” he wrote. “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. To this day, I fail to understand the need for this move, except to punish and humiliate the people of the state.”
He also took on the reasons offered by the Modi government for its decision to divide the erstwhile 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,” he wrote. “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.”