Majid Kapra

Rahul pitches for restoration of statehood to J&K before holding assembly elections

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“Cong will continue to fight against PM Modi's divisive ideology”

Photo/Javed Khan

Srinagar: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday pitched for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood before holding assembly elections even as he said that he feels like “coming home” when he visits the Kashmir Valley.

Addressing his party workers after inaugurating a new party headquarters here, a visibly emotional Gandhi said, “My family lives in Delhi. Before that my family lived in Allahabad. And before Allahabad, my family lived here.”

“I can tell you that I understand you, my family must have drank water from the river Jhelum. Kashmiriyat, the culture and thought process must be in me too. When I come here, I feel like I am coming home,” he said, while referring to his family ties to Kashmir and added that he had come with a message of love and respect.

Gandhi, a former Congress president, said that there was an urgent need for restoration of statehood before holding the assembly elections. “Statehood should be restored and then the democratic process should be started, that is election (to state assembly),” he said.

Before the event, Gandhi offered prayers at the Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine, the revered shrine of Kashmiri Pandits, in Ganderbal in central Kashmir.

Reacting to the suggestion of senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad that a bill for restoration of statehood to J&K be brought during the current session of Parliament, Gandhi said there were several issues that he wanted to raise in Parliament, but the opposition was not allowed to speak there.

He said he was told by his colleagues that J&K was not a big state with many Lok Sabha seats, but stressed upon the importance of the place.

“It is not a state with many Lok Sabh seats…It is not even a state now. But the strength of J&K is the way you live. India and its foundation has Kashmiriyat. This feeling is in me too. What you can get me to do with love and affection, you will never achieve it through force and hatred. That is Kashmiriyat. If you own J&K with love and respect, you will get done whatever you want to,” he said.

The former Congress president said when his party was in power, it tried to unite and join the country, but the BJP believes in divisive ideology.

“When we were in power, we started lots of programmes like Panchayat elections, Udaan, etc. We also brought in industrialists to invest in J&K. We were trying to unite and join. They (BJP) have attacked it,” he added.

He said the new office building of the party’s J&K unit is a new beginning and added that the workers were the party’s army.

“I tried to come here earlier also, before Covid outbreak, but I was not allowed beyond the airport,” he said, referring to his visit immediately after the Centre’s August 2019 decisions to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate in into union territories.

“I will visit Jammu and Ladakh as well,” he added.

Congress leader targeted the Centre for not allowing the opposition to raise in Parliament serious issues related to farmers, Pegasus snooping controversy and corruption, and said that his party would continue to fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “ideology that divides India”.

As the monsoon session of Parliament continues to be marred by frequent disruptions over the Pegasus issue, Gandhi alleged that the policies of the Narendra Modi government were dividing India.

“I fight against Narendra Modi and we will continue to fight against his divisive ideology, the ideology that divides India,” Gandhi said while addressing the party function here.

Gandhi said the BJP has launched an assault not only on Jammu and Kashmir but the entire country.

“They (BJP) are assaulting all the institutions, they are assaulting judiciary, Assembly, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” Gandhi said and pointing to the media enclosure added, “We have media friends here…But the truth that they should report, they are not (doing it).”

“They are being threatened, intimidated and subjugated. They are scared all over India that they might lose their jobs. So they are not able to fulfill their responsibility. This is an assault on the entire country,” he said.

He said dissent was not allowed against this government. “We are not allowed to speak in Parliament on issues like farm bills, Pegasus, corruption, Rafale and unemployment,” he added.

“The assault is not only on Jammu and Kashmir, but on Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as well. The assault is on the idea of India. While the assault in the rest of India is direct, it is indirect in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The Congress MP said his fight was not mainly against any particular person or even on particular issues like unemployment or corruption, but against hatred and fear.

“I fight against hate and fear. The difference between Congress and other parties is that we don’t hate anyone and we don’t believe in violence. Congress is an army of peace and love,” he said.

Earlier in the day Gandhi visited the Kheer Bhawani temple in Ganderbal district and the Hazratbal shrine here.

Gandhi, who arrived on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, reached the temple nestled among mighty chinars in Tullamulla area of the central Kashmir district early in the morning, a Congress leader said.

“This was a private visit. Rahul-ji wanted to pay obeisance at the temple,” the leader said.

Scores of party leaders and supporters were waiting outside the shrine complex to welcome the former Congress president.

Gandhi spent over half-an-hour at the temple and offered prayers, he said.

Immediately after leaving the temple complex, the former Congress president visited the nearby shrine of Mir Baba Haider to pay obeisance there, the leader said.

Gandhi then visited the Dargah Hazratbal shrine on the banks of the Dal Lake here and prayed there as well, he added.

The Congress MP had attended a wedding reception of Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Ahmad Mir’s son at a posh hotel here on Monday evening.

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