STATE TIMES NEWSJammu: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday demanded a probe by retired Supreme Court judges into the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in early 1990s. Replying to questions during a webinar, Abdullah said he was of the firm belief that Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits and that he would support any mechanism to bring them back honourably. Nearly 60,000 Kashmiri Pandit families are registered as migrants after the onset of terrorism in the Kashmir Valley in early 1990s. Abdullah, a member of Lok Sabha and president of the National Conference, chose to blame then former Governor Jagmohan for the exodus and said that he “took them away” on the false promise of ensuring their return within three months. During the webinar hosted by Jammu-based Epilogue News Network on the theme, “Discerning old order delineating new order a year after neutralization of Article 370 and abrogation of Article 35 A”, Abdullah was asked whether he would support a genocide bill being floated by the Panun Kashmir, a Kashmiri Pandit organisation demanding a separate homeland for the migrants. He said he would have to go into the details of the bill first. Abdullah, a three-time chief minister, said, “A sincere and honest judge of Supreme Court, retired judge of Supreme Court, a team of judges…let them investigate and come out with their report. It will clear many minds around the globe, among the younger Kashmiri Pandits, that it was not Kashmiri Muslims who threw them out. There are still many Kashmiri Pandits who never left and they are living here.” The National Conference leader narrated many instances where Muslims had stood by the Pandit community since 1947 and said “do you think we were happy when they (Kashmiri Pandits) were taken away,” he said, adding “we always believe that Kashmir is never going to be complete unless the Hindu brethren come back and live in peace with all of us”. Abdullah said he would continue to uphold his party’s ideology of treating all the people, irrespective of their religious belief, equally. “My father never believed in two-nation theory. He never believed that Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and all other religions are different. We believe all are the children of Adam and Eve. Everybody’s needs are the same and so he worked hard for unity. We will continue to stand on the same path and to my last breath, I will work for the unity of all, he said.
In December last year, the Panun Kashmir adopted the Panun Kashmir Prevention of Genocide and Atrocities Bill, highlighting its various demands including permanent rehabilitation based on principles of non-refoulement.
Among other things, the bill recommends creation of a Board and a Commission to look into the aspects of cultural genocide and all the criminal aspects which include investigation, procedure of trial, fixing of responsibility for the crime of genocide, punishment to the perpetrators and compensation to the victims.
Farooq said the abrogation of the erstwhile state’s special status had neither ushered in development nor put an end to terrorism as being narrated by some vested interests in New Delhi.
He also alleged that the BJP has not learnt any lessons from the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in 1999 and subsequent release of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Maulana Masood Azhar as they think “they are the wisest of the wise, which is unfortunate”.
Abdullah said the government took the decision on the abrogation of the special status without consulting anyone from Jammu and Kashmir.
“It was passed in one day in Rajya Sabha and another day in Lok Sabha,” he said and added that the narrative sold by the government is that Kashmir would now become a part of India. “We were always part of India holding the tricolour,” Abdullah said.
Jammu and Kashmir was enjoying the special status which was guaranteed to the Muslim majority state on joining Hindu-majority India after rejecting Muslim Pakistan, he asserted at the webinar on “Discerning old order delineating new order a year after neutralization of Article 370 and abrogation of Article 35 A understanding the nuances of the old and the new order; the consequences and challenges”.
BJP leader and former minister Priya Sethi and former MLC Surinder Ambardar countered Abdullah and said the abrogation of Article 370 provisions had become necessary to ensure all-round development.
“One year is little time to assess the benefits, give us some time and you will see for yourself,” Sethi said.
Article 370 was a continuation of the two-nation theory which gave rise to Pakistan in 1947, Ambardar said.
On August 5 last year, the Centre abrogated the special status guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated the state into Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Abdullah said the promised development has not come and gave the examples of the Kathua-Banihal rail-link and an all-weather tunnel connecting Kargil with Kashmir Valley. And, Adbullah said, “We were never separatists or projected separatism.”
“What changed which forced them (to take such a decision)? This was the agenda of the BJP to abrogate it and so it projected it that development will be pouring in from the top, industrialists will come in and the whole map will change. Yes, the map changed as the Maharaja’s Kashmir overnight disappeared and we are a union territory which is unfortunate. UTs become states but states never become UTs,” he said.
He also questioned detention of political leaders, including himself.
“Imagine my party lost top leaders including ministers to terrorism to keep the tricolour (flying) high. Have they won the hearts of the people (in Kashmir)…the very people who were chanting the slogan of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ were put in jail and arrested without any reason while others are still under house arrest.
“Are we enemies of India. I pity these leaders and I wonder which direction they are taking this nation to. What will be the outcome of this nation? We have started the way for destruction as we are not winning the people,” Abdullah said.
On the prevailing peace after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions, he said the roads were heavily guarded and there was no way anyone could even peacefully protest. “In any case, the Gupkar declaration of all political parties on August 4 had made an appeal to people to stay calm.”
Referring to the continued suspension of 4G mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir since the August 5 development, he said people in the rest of the country are enjoying the service but the children of Jammu and Kashmir are not given the benefit of it, even during the prevailing situation of the coronavirus pandemic. “Are they not human beings and part of this nation. You deny them this.”
He said some policy-makers in New Delhi think that by shutting down 4G they can hide whatever is happening here. “Every country in the world knows what is happening here. Packing up media, shutting telephones down, and using your media to put false stories — one day this will rebound on you. When you will be sitting in the opposition and you have to answer for your misdeeds,” Abdullah said.
He also spoke about his contributions at various world forums, including the United Nations, representing India in the past and lamented that the authorities did not even spare him from detention under the draconian Public Safety Act.
“When (Jaish-e-Mohammad founder) Maulana Masood Azhar was released (in Afghanistan), the whole team was sent and what was my reaction to it. We could not fight terrorism. You are talking about the great India that you are going to build. You can never build India unless you are ready to sacrifice yourself. You want others to be sacrificed while you will enjoy the glory.
“I told the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee in front of the then home minister (L K Advani) clearly and categorically that don’t do it. You are destroying the nation forever. Did they listen, are they listening now. I don’t think they have learnt and they think they are the wisest of the wise (and) nobody knows better than them, It is unfortunate,” Abdullah said.
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