Outfits seeking debate on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir are “playing with fire” as the issue is linked to the state’s accession to India, this was stated by former chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah.
Omar was speaking at the event ‘Understanding Kashmir’, hosted by social group ‘BRIEF’.
Omar was responding to assertions made by Attorney General K K Venugopal that the NDA government wanted a “larger debate” on Article 35A which provides special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“How can you debate special status of Jammu and Kashmir without debating accession? You can’t. They are two sides of the same coin. J&K acceded to India on the special status that was granted to it,” Omar is quoted to have said. He said the BJP needs to understand that the outfits which are bringing this up are “playing with fire”.
“It’s these sort of steps that glamorise Azaadi,” he said.
Omar reiterated that accession of J&K to India is final and any solution should come from within the four walls of the constitution.
Referring to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement that one can change friends but not neighbours, he said a “positive and constructive” engagement with Pakistan is a necessity to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.
Blaming the Centre for the “shrinking” of political space for mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir, Omar said it has become popular to blame Pakistan for everything that is happening in the state.
“It’s not just mainstream players in Jammu and Kashmir who are responsible for what is happening. The Union of India is responsible, whether it was the UPA or the NDA government. It’s popular to blame our neighbour for everything that is happening in the state but it is not true,” he said.
The former chief minister said while the country knows that Pakistan fishes in troubled waters, “we also know that they are not the creators of the agitations we have seen in 2008, 2010 or 2016”.
Omar said the erosion of political space this time has been far more rapid than it has been in recent years and cited the state government’s failure to conduct an election in south Kashmir.
“This is the first election in J&K that the Hurriyat conference has won, because since 1996 they have been saying that elections should not take place. There should be a boycott. Elections should be disrupted. On the back of the protests, you cancelled that election and handed victory to them,” he is quoted to have said.
Omar said it was not just the political space of the regional parties that has shrunk, “even the ability of the government of India and the Election Commission has shrunk to the point that you put your hands up and walked away”.