Scrapping of Art 370 reversible, keeping issue alive is major challenge: Omar

‘Govt can’t risk contempt of court by not holding Assembly polls’

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar May 21: National Conference (NC) vice president and candidate for the Baramulla Parliamentary constituency, Omar Abdullah, today said that 2019 decision of Centre on Jammu and Kashmir is reversible but the challenge is to keep the issue alive.
In an exclusive interview to the Excelsior, Abdullah said that the decision to hollow out Article 370 was a man-made decision and every man-made decision can be reversed.
The NC vice president said that three previous judgements challenging Article 370 were upheld by the Supreme Court in the past and may be in future a bench will reverse the latest apex court judgement.

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“I didn’t hear the BJP say anything on this when previous Supreme Court Judgments upheld Article 370. Who knows in future there will be a bench that will reverse this judgment of the supreme court,”? he said.
Abdullah said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can’t remain in power forever and there are parties in the country which have different views on scrapping the semi-autonomy of J&K.
“…the BJP will not be in power forever. We have political parties that see eye to eye on this issue. The challenge for us is to keep the issue alive and wait for the time when we will be able to get something back,” he added.
The NC leader rubbished the claims of the Centre that the security situation has normalised in Kashmir with the scrapping of Article 370.
“I think they would be foolish to make that claim. In a normal situation, tourists are not gunned down, political workers are not shot dead. I think the sooner we stop talking about this normalcy, the better,” he added.
Abdullah said Article 370 scrapping didn’t lead to high voter turnout in Kashmir and claims made by the PM and HM regarding it are not based on facts.
“I had Panchayat elections in J&K in 2011 where the turnout was 80-90 percent. How come then I should credit that turnout and other higher turnout to Article 370. In fact the abrogation of 370 has caused a fall in turnout,” he added.
“Yes, this number is higher than 96. But then in 96 and elections after that, we had violence, boycott, those were all factors. Article 370 was not a factor in those elections,” he said.
On lakhs of people suffering due to adverse police reports in J&K, Abdullah said that this is an injustice and his party is committed to removing it.
“…this is an issue that we had actually put to rest when I was Chief Minister. We took a categorical decision in the Unified Command Headquarters meeting that militants’ children cannot be treated as militants. If somebody has committed a crime, you punish them, however, you see fit. But you can’t punish somebody for the crimes of their family members,” he added.
The NC vice president said that it is not he who accuses Altaf Bukhari and Sajjad Lone of being B-team of the saffron party but their actions speak of it.
“I am not the one who meets Tarun Chug when he comes to Srinagar. I am not the one who says I will join the NDA. I am not the one who got a ministry in late Mufti Syed’s cabinet from the BJP quota. I am not the one who got a letter of support from the BJP to form a government in J&K in 2018. I am not the one who calls the PM my big brother. So, I mean, these are all facts. You can’t dispute them,” he said.
Abdullah accused police of harassing its workers, detaining them and preventing them from casting their vote during the elections held in Srinagar and Baramulla seats.
“Very cleverly, the police don’t really file any papers. They bring these people to the Police Stations, keep them for the duration of polling and then they let them go in the evening. The NC poll staff had been called to Police Stations and they are being told that they have FIRs against them,” he said.
The NC leader said that the motive behind all this is to defeat the National Conference. “Today, not only does New Delhi want turnout. They also want to tell people who to vote for. And their entire focus is on defeating the NC,” he said.
Abdullah accused the Prime Minister and BJP leaders of playing communal politics and urged him to be a statesman.
“At some point, we have to stop being politicians and start being statesmen. Unfortunately, in this election, statesmanship has all but disappeared. And it’s just hardcore, brutal politics,” he said.
The NC leader said that Modi can’t claim to be the leader of 140 Crore Indians when he speaks against and maligns 14 percent of the population during his election campaign.
Abdullah hoped that the Assembly elections in J&K would be held before the deadline set by the Apex court.
“Look, if the Government of India wants to risk contempt of court, by all means, but also if the PM and HM want to risk being sort of termed as dishonest, then fine, don’t have the elections on time,” he said.
The NC leader criticised the Delimitation Commission’s decision of re-drawing the boundaries of the constituencies in J&K.
“In some constituencies, it has made the job tougher. Now, Anantnag parliamentary constituency has been completely dismembered. You have taken seven constituencies from the other side of the Pir Panjal,” he said.
Abdullah said that re-drawing of boundaries was done purely at the behest of the BJP and its allies. “This was done to facilitate the parties that are supporting the BJP in this election. None of the suggestions that were made by us were accepted,” he said.