BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi engaged in some bitter sparring with Union minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and his son, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, on Monday.
Reacting to Farooq’s statement that Kashmir would not be a part of India that is “communal” and those who vote for Modi should “jump into the sea”, Modi said, “I want to tell Farooq Abdullah that the thousands of years-old great tradition of secularism in India suffered its biggest and deepest blow in Kashmir. And this happened due to the politics of your father, due to your politics and due to your son’s politics.”
Stating that Kashmir “is the only place in this country where Pandits were evicted due to their religion”, Modi said, “Kashmir was the land of Sufi tradition… and it has been tarred with communal colour by you for selfish interests… If somebody has to drown, then you should look at your (Farooq) face in the mirror. Put your father’s face in front of the mirror and ask this question. Those who have chased Kashmiri Pandits out have no right to preach against communalism.”
Hitting back at Modi, Omar said, “Modi Sahib knows many things but his history is weak… Kashmiri Pandits didn’t leave when Farooq Abdullah was in power. They left Kashmir during Jagmohan’s rule (as Governor). Jagmohan was appointed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was the home minister in the V P Singh government. V P Singh was heading the government with BJP support.”
Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, Omar said, “Modi Sahib, if Kashmiri Pandits have left, they have gone with the help of your party… Jagmohan is part of your party. He was a minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, and if my information is right, he has not left the BJP yet.”
Stating that “majority of Kashmiri Muslims are pained at the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and want them to come back”, Omar said Modi has “insulted the people of Kashmir”.
“Modi Sahib, you are giving the lecture of secularism to the people who taught the lesson of secularism to this country in 1947… Modi Sahib giving a lecture of secularism to Kashmiris seems strange to me. If something (someone) is seen as opposite to secularism, it is Narendra Modi Sahib… We don’t need a certificate of being secular from Modi or the BJP. If it comes to the point that they have to issue a certificate, I will have to quit politics,” he said.
Omar later tweeted, “Modi forgets that Sheikh Abdullah chose a secular India rather than Muslim Pakistan and then spent two decades incarcerated but didn’t waver… If there is one thing Kashmir and Kashmiris don’t need from Modi, it’s a lecture on secularism. Kashmir gave the world Kashmiryat and tolerance.”
Omar also asked why Modi did not campaign in the Valley. “Modi Sahib, you do not have the courage to come to Kashmir to seek votes. You have set out to become the prime minister of the country but you will not come to Kashmir for seeking votes… You will go to Jammu and Ladakh but not the Valley because the ideas you have for this place, the way you have tried to defame people, I don’t think you will have any place in their hearts,” he said.
— With PTI