Jammu: In his first political rally here since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last year, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Friday said he won’t die until constitutional rights of the people of the erstwhile state are restored and dared the BJP to respond to his questions rather than “misleading the country” and making “false promises”.
“I will not die until the rights of my people are given back…. I am here to do something for the people and the day I will finish my work, I will leave this world,” the National Conference (NC) president told his party workers who packed the Sher-e-Kashmir Bhawan here ahead of a scheduled meeting of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Saturday.
“We will fight for our rights and identity and will not be cowed down,” he said and asked “what was our fault?”
Taking a dig at the JK unit of the BJP, he said those setting ablaze his effigies should remember that “it was Farooq Abdullah” who along with BJP stalwart A B Vajpayee represented India in Geneva and silenced the opponents.
“I am not afraid of BJP. I am not armed with lathi or stone, let them come to me and reply to my questions which they will not,” he said, adding his party never took decisions on the basis of religion and region.
Continuing his attack, he said “Those who claim to be the champions of Hindu cause and challenging us, let them do a favour to this country by going to the borders and show their power to the enemy rather than to the citizens of the country. We have done it when the NC stood against the tribal raid and saved Srinagar from being captured in 1947.”
The National Conference workers, especially the party’s youth leader Maqbool Sherwani, had misled the Pakistan Army disguised as tribal raiders in Baramulla to enable Indian Army land in the state.
It was 84-year-old Abdullah’s first political meeting in Jammu since the abrogation of Article 370, which accorded Jammu and Kashmir special status, and bifurcation of the state into union territories in August last year.
Mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the NC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), formed the PAGD last month for the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state as it existed before August 5 last year and also to initiate a dialogue between all stakeholders on the issue.
Abdullah, accompanied by his son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah, arrived here this afternoon, their first visit to the region in over a year.
The Abdullahs, along with other political leaders in Kashmir, were detained under the Public Safety Act and released this year.
He accused the BJP of adopting its agenda as the “country’s agenda” and said “nation is bigger than the party and don’t think that India is yours alone.”
He said many governments have come and gone and “you have to go one day as well” and pointed out to the elections in the US.
Abdullah said US President Donald Trump was also making noises and now he is moving to courts to challenged election results.
“He (Trump) is going out and so will be you one day,” he said.
Abdullah, the sitting parliamentarian from Srinagar, said his party had never differentiated between Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir and always considered them a single entity.
“We have never thought that Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir are separate from each other. We could not be able to take the people of these regions on board at the time of the formation of the PAGD due to the urgency of the situation and now we are here,” Abdullah said.
He said the parties have joined hands to pitch for the restoration of Article 370, Article 35A and throw away the “black laws” which were implemented in Jammu and Kashmir beyond Lakhanpur — the gateway to the erstwhile state bordering Punjab.
Referring to him being called as ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Chinese’ supporter, Abdullah said it was the National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who told the people that “this is our way and not that side” while joining India in 1947.
“We joined Mahatma Gandhi’s India and not the BJP. The India where all religions are equal and every citizen whether rich or poor gets equal treatment and the only red line is that we have to respect each other, irrespective of our religion and choice of food and drink,” he said.
The former chief minister said he had never thought of any other country as his nation. “When I was not here, people started searching me where is Farooq Abdullah who can save JK,” he said, referring to him being called to fight elections in 1996 in JK at a time when militancy was at its peak.
“Some used to say that the National Conference was finished but the people knew that it was the National Conference which alone could save JK at that time. Nobody was looking for BJP,” he said, amid thundering applause and slogan shouting by party workers.
He said he was not afraid of anyone. We have faced you in the past and ready to face you again and Insha Allah (god willing) we will emerge as victorious.
Referring to the new land laws, Abdullah accused the BJP of making false promises to the people of JK. “Where have your promises of protection to the land and jobs gone after the abrogation of special status. Today, the unemployed are on the roads and so are the daily wagers who are waiting for their services to be regularised,” he said.
The NC Patron also accused accused the BJP of using Kashmiri Pandits as vote bank and said the community is still waiting for their return and rehabilitation in the valley.
Abdullah also said that the real development in Jammu and Kashmir would come when there will be a people’s government.
“For 28 years, they are saying that Kashmiri Pandits will be taken back to their homes in the valley. They are in power for more than five years but they are still waiting for the day of their return,” Abdullah said.
He accused the BJP of spreading hatred among communities and asked “how long will you use them as vote bank”.
“You have always used them,” Abdullah said.
“People are the real fountain of power. When there will be elections, bring forth the people who can help the masses and are not self-centric, he said, adding the real development will come to J-K when there will be people’s government and all rights of the people restored.”
Asserting that the National Conference is not “anti-national”, he said those who are hurling such wild allegations should check their vision.
“We are not the ones whom you could buy or make them to tear apart their clothes,” he said, referring to a BJP leader who tore his shirt to claim that he is a nationalist to the core.
“How many more you will buy (in J&K). I know there are some elements in NC as well. I have seen a lot (in politics) and the day is not far when another group will come and they will buy you as well,” he said.
He asked the party workers to remain steadfast and united to thwart such conspiracies.
“We have to remain cautious as they are trying to divide us on the basis of religion and region…. This nation is strong as people from different backgrounds, regions, climates and languages are one. A Madrassi, a Bengali, a Maratha who are not habitual to below 30 degrees Celsius is guarding Ladakh sector in minus 30 degrees Celsius,” he said, adding “we are together and one because of our nation”.
He said the BJP cannot be “my master and I am not afraid of them.
Asking his party workers to be patient in the face of abuse by opponents, he said they can burn his effigy and abuse him because it is a weapon of the weak and the strong replies with patience and a smile.
“As long as your party is strong, nobody can force you down, he said, asking people not to worry though there will be attempts to create confusion and divide them.
“Those who are accusing us of being Pakistanis are in reality the ones who are supporting Pakistan. If something wrong happen, they would be the first to chant Pakistani slogans, he said.
He said National Conference workers do not tear clothes to demonstrate nationalism.
Abdullah also appealed to the people of Jammu not to burst firecrackers on Diwali festival to reduce air pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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