National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Wednesday, 27 April, said that present day India is not the country that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had acceded to, adding that the decision "would have been something else" if people had known that the Muslim community's religious rights "will not be protected" in this country.
"When we decided to accede to India, we acceded to a country where every religion would be treated equally. We were not told that one religion will get preferential treatment and others will be suppressed," he told reporters in Srinagar.
"If we knew it, perhaps our decision would have been something else. We had consciously taken the decision after we were told that every religion will get equal rights," he said.
'Govt Playing With Such Danger': Omar on Hijab Ban
Embarking on the topic of hijab ban and how teachers at a special school in Kashmir's Baramulla were forced to remove their scarves, he said that the government is playing with "such a danger" which can pose threats to the country and that people of every faith should be allowed to follow their religion.
“Everyone has the freedom to follow his or her religion in this country. It is enshrined in our Constitution that we are a secular country, which means all religions are equal. I do not think any government should interfere in this," the NC leader continued.
Admitting that he does not want to see what happened in Karnataka repeat in Kashmir, Abdullah said, "We hope that the effort to bring Karnataka into Jammu and Kashmir will be stopped forthwith."
"These teachers (who wear hijab) must have been interacting with the students earlier also. What changed overnight?” he reasoned on the abrupt diktat given by the school.
On Azaan and Halal Meat Row
Why are we being asked to not use loudspeakers for azaan when we have not stopped anyone from using the same in temples, Abdullah questioned.
"You are telling us halal meat should not be sold. Why? We are not forcing you to eat. Show me where has a Muslim forced a non-Muslim to eat halal," he asked further.
He added that in the upcoming elections, he would like the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to contest as an alliance.
"We should not allow the BJP and its B team and C team to divide votes. This will be my suggestion, but the final decision has to be taken by the PAGD,” the leader added.
Welcomes SC Decision to List Petitions on Article 370 for Hearing
He also welcomed the decision taken by the Supreme Court on listing petitions regarding the rescindment of Article 370 after summer vacation. He requested the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to speed-up the hearings which were slowed due to the pandemic.
“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to constitute a bench after the summer vacation. We understand that due to COVID-19, the petitions could not be listed earlier but we would now request the CJI that the hearings be held on a fast-track basis," Abdullah said.
Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir were abrogated by the Centre on 5 August 2019.
The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister spoke with youth activists of the NC at the headquarters. “I am meeting youngsters to understand what they think and what problems they face,” he said, pointing out that the meeting was not connected to the elections in J&K.
“Since August 2019, many changes have taken place, which should not have happened. Any further delay would mean that it would be difficult to reverse the changes,” he told news agency PTI.
Numerous suggestions made by NC to the commission were ignored, Abdullah claimed, but whatever happened is in the past, he added.
“We have put before the delimitation commission that its existence itself is illegal. We have challenged the reorganisation act, which means that the delimitation commission has also been challenged," he further explained.
(With inputs from PTI.)