Bitter And Will Challenge Article 370 Abrogation in Court: Omar

Speaking for the first time since last August, Abdullah said his party would not compromise with the Centre

5 min read
File image of Omar Abdullah.

Nearly one year after the Indian government decided to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution on 5 August 2019, revoking the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir, former chief minister Omar Abdullah spoke about the silence of the Opposition, increasing levels of violence in the region, his detention under PSA, and his future as a politician.

Stating that he was “bitter and cynical” about the turn of events in the Valley, the former chief minister said that the National Conference party would continue to fight the matter through the legal route in the Supreme Court, where it has challenged the “scrapping of Article 370 and 35A of the constitution and the abolition of J&K’s statehood.”

Speaking to The Hindu, Abdullah reportedly acknowledged that he felt “cynical and disappointed” and that barring a few exceptions like the “DMK, Mamata Banerjee, the Left Parties, and one or two individuals in the Congress party”, the rest of the parties had steered clear of the issue.

“Look, I understand the political hullabaloo made by the BJP around dilution of Article 370 and 35A would have made it hard for these parties to say anything. But they stayed quiet about the downgrading of J&K from a state to a Union Territory as well. Even parties like the Aam Aadmi Party, the TRS, that have fought for full statehood were happy when J&K’s statehood was taken away,” he reportedly said.

Following 6 months of preventive detention since last August, Abdullah was arrested formally under the Public Safety Act in February, before his release in March. However, almost simultaneously, the imposition of the coronavirus lockdown meant entering another curfew-like situation, which Abdullah had humorously tweeted about at the time.

In an interview with The Wire, Abdullah revealed that he had been offered “immediate release” if he signed a bond pledging silence for the “forseeable future”. He refused to sign the document, fearing it would silence him as a politician.

While Abdullah reportedly remains unsure of the future of mainstream parties in the Valley due to the events that have taken place over the last year, he along with father Farooq Abdullah have moved the high court for the release of 16 members of their party.

‘Not A Single Claim of the Government is True’

Claiming that the government itself had been “forced to admit” that violence had increased in the Valley in order to justify the continued ban on 2G services, Abdullah said that decision of 5 August “was simply about the BJP being able to use its brute majority in the Lok Sabha” without accounting for the sentiments of the people of J&K or the opinion of other parties.

“One year later, we are forced to ask what has changed? Are those people who were alienated, feeling any less so? Is violence any lower? Has investment suddenly started flowing in? Is corruption any less and is governance any better?” he reportedly questioned.

He also clarified that there was no chance of a compromise with the central government and that while he would continue to “fight what happened on 5 August” he would not contest for the post of chief minister, as long as J&K remained a Union Territory.

He also said his bitterness was to be expected as the government had not only invoked the PSA to ensure he was “locked up” but also cited “fake news” in the Parliament to justify his detention. He also reportedly added that one of his regrets as chief minister was not revoking PSA from the statute books.

Abdullah said that however, there was a difference in the way PSA had been used against him. “All we said was that we will democratically oppose any changes that are forced on the people of J&K, and for that we were punished the way we were,” he said to The Wire.

‘People Fearful of New Domicile Law’

On 31 March, amid the coronavirus pandemic, under Section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, the MHA issued a new domicile rule, officially called Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020.

Section 3A defines who is a domicile, and Section 5A defines the special rights of the domiciles. These rights rested with the state legislature before the abrogation of Article 370, and now they have been put in the hands of the union government.

Calling people’s fears about the new domicile law “genuine and real concerns”, Abdullah said that the fact that a domicile law was rushed into for J&K, and not Ladakh, despite the fact that they were formed at the same time, showed the Centre’s true intentions.

“You should have given the same domicile law to the UT of Ladakh – so that the children of officers, soldiers, paramilitaries and those who have done their 10th and 12th class exams in Ladakh can apply for domicile and buy land and stay there. But you haven’t done that because you fear the reaction from the Buddhist population of Ladakh, whereas you are not bothered about how the population of J&K reacts,” he reportedly said.

Abdullah has also said that it would be “short-sighted” to believe that people of J&K were happy with the 5 August decision and that simply because one could not see the protests taking place in the Valley, “don’t confuse it to mean there is no anger”.

‘Article 370, Special Status Part of Promise Made to Us ’

Stating that his party would not stop challenging the revoking of special status in court, Abdullah said that people of J&K had believed that “Article 370 and the special status it granted was an integral part of the state’s accession with rest of India” and that it was not right that while J&K had kept its side of the agreement by remaining a part of India, the other side had not.

“I had said Article 370 is a bridge between J&K and the rest of the country and if you remove it, it will reopen the chapter of the Instrument of Accession. They kept it and hollowed it out,” he said.

The former CM also criticised the Supreme Court for failing to prioritise petitions challenging the 5 August decision and added that anti-democratic measures used to quell dissent had now “migrated to the rest of India”.

Citing the misuse of the Governor’s office as an example of how political outcomes had been reached in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, he also said that arrests of people for ”peaceful, legitimate protests” in Bengaluru and other places and frequent internet shutdowns were becoming the norm rather than the exception.

(With inputs from The Wire and The Hindu)

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