Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday said the Centre needs to uphold Article 35(A) of the Constitution, which empowers J&K to define its permanent residents and give them special privileges.
Speaking at the Think Federal Conclave in Kolkata, Abdullah, who was the chief guest, said, “The agreement of accession under the Constitution does not deem all states equal. While it (J&K) is a part of the Union of India, it is with distinct character.
But from 1953 onwards, this agreement has steadily eroded and the agreement is a mere shadow of what it was conceived as. This is because the Union government has been unwilling to honour the agreement. This was a conscious decision that Kashmir took, to join India instead of Pakistan, and this decision was taken because of India’s diversity and its respect of all communities. But while the people of Kashmir are still held to this agreement and are expected to honour it… the Union government does not think it necessary for it to do likewise.”
Abdullah argued that contrary to popular belief — according to which the 1987 elections first saw the rise of militancy in Kashmir — it was actually his father’s removal as J&K chief minister in 1984 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the subsequent signing of the Farooq Abdullah-Rajiv Gandhi agreement that led to militancy in the state.
“If the Centre did not feel so threatened by the state, which had not fully merged with India, and instead focused on making the state stronger… Kashmir would never have become the bloody violent situation it has been reduced to over the years…” he said, adding, “India is not a strong union today. From problems in Kashmir, to Maoists in Chhattisgarh to issues in the north-east. If the Centre needs to focus on anything, it is in strengthening the federal structure… But the present government wants to reduce India to a single being with one thought and one way of being. Many promises have been made but little delivered. The Prime Minister had promised that Kashmir would receive everything short of azaadi, but nothing has been delivered.’’
“Atal Bihari Vajpayee had talked of a humanitarian democracy and the composite culture of Kashmir — these words are never uttered by the present government. Under the UPA, Chidamabaram was willing to discuss and consider the repeal of AFSPA. But this government is unwilling. As a matter of fact, the internal handling of Kashmir under the present government has been one of the government’s biggest failures and has reduced the state to a deplorable bloody condition… Even the tie up that took place between the PDP and the BJP took place to bridge the gap between Jammu and Kashmir, instead it has increased this gap and polarised the people. If this government talks of killing terrorists as a mark of success, it needs to compare the numbers killed also to the number of youths joining the militancy over the past few years, which has increased dramatically,” he said.
On Modi’s handling of the Kashmir situation, he further said, “At a public rally in Srinagar, when Mufti Mohammad Syed talked of opening dialogue with the Centre, the prime minister dismissed his demands by saying that he knew the Kashmir issue better than everyone and that he did not need advice on it. To humiliate a democratically elected chief minister in front of his own people will obviously create resentment.”
Abdullah further pointed out that states, including Kashmir and West Bengal, do not have the freedom to appropriately spend funds allotted by the Centre.