No question of accepting anything less than what was snatched away from us: Omar Abdullah
- Jailed for 8 months under the PSA, Omar Abdullah sounds hurt, bitter and let down
- What we are fighting for is what was given to us and created for us by Jawaharlal Nehru, said Omar Abdullah
- I know it is a political issue, that is why I am not trying to change the BJP: Omar
Omar Abdullah has been one of the most articulate and passionate voices emanating from the Valley in favour of the restoration of the erstwhile status of Jammu and Kashmir. He and his father Farooq Abdullah have always held the tricolour aloft even in the most trying of times. Jailed for 8 months under the Public Safety Act, Omar Abdullah sounds hurt, bitter and let down, as he passionately argues for the restoration of the status in his wide ranging interview to Javed M Ansari for Opoyi.
Q1. The alliance has come together to fight for the restoration of the special status, which is a matter that is in the Supreme Court, so how else are you going to fight for this restoration?
Omar: We will fight it primarily in the Supreme Court, we believe we have a very strong case and when the issue comes up before the apex court we are more than confident that we will carry the day. Secondary, we will also keep it alive in the public domain and explain all aspects of it to the people of the state, specially to the people in Jammu, Leh and Kargil. We will continue to raise this issue in Parliament, talk to like-minded parties and disabuse some of them of the misgivings that they may have on the issue.
Q2. How do you react to the act that some of your allies like the Congress actually voted in favour of the abrogation in Parliament?
Omar: That is the surprising part and that is something for the Congress party to explain to its conscience. What was snatched away from us is the legacy of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. What we are fighting for is what was given to us and created for us by Jawaharlal Nehru. The Congress strangely is disowning that legacy. Even yesterday the state Congress unit stayed away from the meeting though they were signatories to it initially. However, there are many people in the Congress leaders like Mr Chidambaram, who have been very vocal and strong in their support for us, as have the DMK Chief MK Stalin and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Q3. The National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party have announced an alliance to seek the restoration of J&K’s special status. In the end, isn’t this just political posturing because who are you asking? The same Modi government that changed the special status in the first place?
Omar: We have no expectation of changing the BJP’s thought process. That’s not our intention at all. However, we do believe and history is a testimony to the fact that no government or party remains in power forever. We are in it for the long haul, and there is absolutely no question of ever giving up what was ours or accepting what was snatched away from us on 5th August 2019.
Q4. Farooq Abdullah has sought China’s help for restoring Article 370. Do you agree with him?
Omar: That was not his formulation, these linkages were drawn up by others. He just sought to reflect what the people on the ground have been saying. Nobody here is advocating a role for China.
Q5. Both you and your father have been the loudest pro Indian voices in the state, yet you were held under the draconian Public Security Act (PSA). Did you ever think you would be seen as the ‘enemy of the state’?
Omar: Never did I ever imagine that I would be considered an enemy of my people, my state and my country. Just look at the grounds that were cited for booking me under PSA. My ability to get people out and participate in the electoral process was cited as grounds for my detention. How on earth can you expect anybody in the future to persuade people to participate in elections. They just didn’t think this through, the idea was to make us feel humiliated. It hurt, not just for what happened to us but for what was done to the state to its people and leaders like Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba. It hurts that my country has gone back on the sovereign commitment, it hurts that the entire state was put in a lockdown and denied basic human rights.
Q6. Do you now feel more Kashmiri and less Indian?
Omar: Have never seen the two as mutually exclusive. The fact is that I am a Kashmiri and an Indian.
Q7. The new alliance with Mehbooba Mufti has also sought a political dialogue with all stakeholders. Who are these stakeholders and do they include Pakistan?
Omar: The primary stakeholders are the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Let's begin with them first. As far as the part of the question is concerned it's in the domain of the government of India.
Q8. What are the political demands that the dialogue should address?
Omar: We are very clear that it has to be the restoration of our status.
Q9. Isn’t it a plain fact that the change of status has left you with virtually no political space? Honestly, aren’t you finding it difficult to find issues that will resonate with the people who think that the mainstream parties are responsible for what has been done to Jammu and Kashmir?
Omar: Nothing resonates with the people more than the restoration of what was taken away from them. This is by far the biggest issue before them. The people in Ladakh are agitating about the restoration of their rights, in Jammu, people want protection of their Dogra identity, there is no shortage of issues.
Q10. The mood on the street is a difficult one to navigate. When will you start reaching out to the people? So far, you have only had closed door meetings.
Omar: We have never stopped moving out. We have been holding meetings and have deliberately kept the gathering small because of security concerns and on account of the pandemic. It would be highly irresponsible on our part to put people at risk by asking them to gather in large numbers.
Q11. You and your father met PM Modi just before August 5 last year when the state’s fate was changed. Will you ever trust the PM again?
Omar: What transpired at the meeting is a conversation for another day. I have never said that I do not trust him, what transpired is for a conversation in the future. It's not about a trust deficit. I know it is a political issue, that is why I am not trying to change the BJP, I know I cannot.
Q12. You were once a minister in the BJP-led NDA under (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee. Mehbooba too shared power with the BJP. Will you ever join hands with the BJP again?
Omar: I never give a categorical answer to a hypothetical question. However, I would be very surprised if the NC is ever a part of an NDA alliance.
Q13. You have in earlier interviews said that you are hurt and have become less trusting. How deep is your personal wound?
Omar: Deep enough to say that it hurts even to talk about it. Sure it wasn’t pleasant, watching Mehbooba ji in jail for 14 months, watching so many of the political leaders and workers in jail, watching our people suffer. The hurt was not about me or my father but about all of us, it was about the entire state.
Q14. Will this alliance at some stage turn into an electoral alliance as well?
Omar: There are no elections on the anvil. Hence, it is not even on the agenda. This is a political alliance for the restoration of our status and our rights.