‘Will contest Article 370 move legally, democratically’: Farooq and Omar Abdullah

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National Conference (NC) leaders and former chief ministers Farooq and Omar Abdullah are “bitter” about, and feel “betrayed” by, the constitutional changes related to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) pushed through by the Centre last year, and will contest them both politically and legally, while asserting that their struggle will be entirely peaceful.

The two leaders, in perhaps their first joint interview, said they rejected the Union government’s constituency delimitation exercise and domicile laws as efforts to change the demography of the Valley. They also spoke of the pain of on the one hand being seen as separatists by “ultra-nationalists” in the rest of the country, and on the other, as nationalists in Kashmir.

Read the full interview here

The father-son duo — sitting in their heavily protected Gupkar residence in Srinagar — told Hindustan Times that the mood on the Kashmiri street was of not being a part of India and “not Indian”; warned about the impact in J&K of growing Hindu-Muslim “hatred” in the rest of the country; pointed to the unrepresentative character of the current administration in the UT — with local Muslims having little space; and said that no door was open for a dialogue with the Centre.

When asked about the mood on the Kashmiri street, Farooq Abdullah, 83, said: “If you want to know the honest truth, they are not part of India. This is God’s truth. You ask an ordinary person, he does not want to be Pakistani. Let’s be frank about it. He is not a Pakistani, but he is not an Indian today after what they (the Centre) did.”

Last year, Parliament effectively nullified Article 370, which conferred special status on J&K, removed Article 35A, which empowered the state legislature to define permanent residents for government jobs and property ownership, reorganised the state into two separate administrative units of J&K and Ladakh, and made them both Union Territories. On August 15 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that after the delimitation process is complete, there would be elections to the new assembly in J&K. The Centre has also appointed a new lieutenant governor, Manoj Sinha. The new UT’s major parties have, meanwhile, issued a Gupkar joint statement, taking forward their Gupkar declaration of last year, pledging that they will fight the constitutional changes together.

Rejecting the charge that Article 370 led to separatism, Farooq Abdullah said, “There is more separatism now than before August 5 last year. It’s not the Pakistanis who are dying today, it is the Kashmiris. Who has created them (militants)? Not Farooq Abdullah. I was in the jail. They (the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government) created them. The hatred they have created between Hindus and Muslims in the rest of the nation…do you think it will not have an effect here? It will.”

Elaborating on the legal dimension of their battle against the constitutional changes, the younger Abdullah, 50, said that their petition in the Supreme Court rested on a strong point. “A governor cannot assume the powers of an assembly, and an assembly cannot assume the powers of a constituent assembly….There is a fundamental flaw to what New Delhi did on August 5, 2019. You can wish away the merit of our case politically, but no

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