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NC threatens to boycott Assembly, Lok Sabha elections too

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If J&K’s separate Constitution is an aberration, then it accession to India is also an aberration: Farooq Abdullah

Srinagar, Sep 08: Days after the National Conference announced its decision to not participate in the Panchayat and urban local bodies (ULB) elections, the party on Saturday threatened to boycott the Assembly and Parliamentary polls as well if the Centre does not take effective steps for protection of Article 35-A.

Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state. It is facing legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

“How can we go to our workers and ask them to come out to vote? First do justice to us and clear your (Centre) stand (on Article 35-A). If your plan is weakening Jammu and Kashmir’s special position, then our ways are separate. Then we cannot have elections. Not only these (urban local bodies and panchayat) polls, but we will also boycott the assembly and parliamentary elections then,” NC president Farooq Abdullah said while addressing party workers at a function here to mark the 36th death anniversary of his father and NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

The former chief minister said his party was not running away from polls, but wanted the Centre to do justice with the people of Jammu and Kashmir first and take effective steps for the protection of the state’s special position.

“On one hand they (Centre) want to conduct polls here, on the other hand they want to revoke Article 35-A.  Article 370 has been weakened and there are also attacks on the (Jammu and Kashmir) Constitution,” Abdullah said.

Reiterating the party’s commitment of protecting state’s special status, Abdullah said that any tinkering with Article 370 and Article 35-A will prove disastrous for the whole country.

He said that the party will not participate in either Assembly or Parliament elections until and unless Government of India reveals its official stand on Article 35-A, and protects it with all its might in the apex court.

“If the central government doesn’t stand up for our rights now, enshrined in the constitution and fails to protect Article 35-A in the SC, then we will not participate in the forthcoming parliament and assembly elections. This is our identity and any attack on it will be direct attack on the people of the state. We are committed to do everything possible to protect it,” Abdullah said.

He said the Centre and the State government hurriedly announced the ULB and Panchayat polls, which will be held next month in four and eight phases respectively.

“First they should have talked to us. They should have called every leader that they plan to conduct polls and asked for our opinion. They did not. The prime minister, like Hitler, announced on 15 August from the Red Fort that elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

He also said the “powers that be used PDP and its leadership to weaken our fiscal autonomy. Implementation of SARFAESI Act and GST in the state was part of that design.

“Now they have started targeting the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution as well. I want to reiterate here that if they continue with such brazenness then it will be fair to say that our accession with Union of India will come into question,” he said.

The NC president also trained his guns at National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval over his statement that having a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir was probably an “aberration”.

“Their (Centre’s) intentions are not right. They never were. The NSA has said that a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir is an aberration. I want to tell him from this stage that if the constitution is an aberration, then this accession (of Jammu and Kashmir to India) is also an aberration,” he said.

“On one hand they tell us that we are their crown, but on the other hand they put that crown in their feet… So, they have to think. They cannot control this state if they cause any further problems here. If they want this state together with the country, then they should stop what they are doing,” Abdullah said.

He added that Art 35-A is not for any one region or religion of the state but is an article of faith and honour for all regions and religions. It is equally important for people in Jammu and Ladakh as it is in Kashmir.

NC president also said he was hopeful of better relations between New Delhi and Islamabad after Imran Khan took over as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will emulate the steps of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who wanted to improve ties with the neighbouring country.

“As Imran Khan took over as the PM of Pakistan, we are hopeful of better relations between India and Pakistan which is very important for us because our issues will get resolved only when there is an atmosphere of friendship between them,” Abdullah, the Member of Parliament from Srinagar, said while addressing party workers at a function here to mark the 36th death anniversary of his father and party founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

“When an RSS and Jan Sangh leader like Vajpayee can go to Pakistan and say India accepts Pakistan as a country and wants to live in friendship with it, I hope the country’s PM (Modi) thinks about it and works towards taking a step like that,” Abdullah said.

He said the region will progress only when the two countries start living as good neighbours.

“We should not forget he (Vajpayee) said that friends can be changed, but not neighbours and if we can live with neighbours as friends, then we both will progress,” the former chief minister said.

The NC leader said there were some people with “vested interests” both in India and Pakistan, who do not want peace between the two countries.

He said he read a newspaper article in which India’s envoy to Pakistan had said the neighbouring country wants friendly ties with India.

“If the envoy is saying that, then what is the problem, why is India not taking a step forward? Do they have to save this country or not? Or do we only want to have hatred between Muslims and Hindus?” Abdullah asked.

Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria had on Friday said the new government there has opened a political window and India is “filled with cautious hope”.

The NC president said the way Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was targeted by the media “shows that there are some channels which do not want better relations between India and Pakistan”.

He said if the country wants to come out of the atmosphere where attacks are happening on the people from minority communities, then “we have to respect every citizen and their religion as well”.

“No Muslim has ever told any Hindu or Christian to change the way they practice their religion or change their food habits or has stopped them from visiting their religious places. But, when they tell us not to offer prayers in a particular way or stop ‘Azaan’ (call for prayers), they want to change Gandhi’s India,” he said.

Abdullah said every religion has to be respected and people have to be given the rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

The NC president accused “agencies” of spreading rumours about danger to Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley and called upon his party workers and the people of Kashmir to safeguard the community.

“I want to tell the NC workers that a new danger is there. There are rumours being floated and I think agencies are doing it like it was done during (former governor) Jagmohan’s time, that Kashmiri Pandits are in danger and they should be cautious. This is being done to spread fear in the country so that there are clashes between Muslims and Hindus.

“I want to tell not only the workers of NC, but the people of Kashmir, that Pandits are our brothers and it is our duty to safeguard them. Make sure no Hindu feels unsafe here. Every Kashmiri – whether people from Hurriyat (Conference), NC, Congress or PDP – is duty-bound to safeguard them,” he said.

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