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Azad seeks people’s support to take J&K out of shadows of ‘fear’, ‘helplessness’

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Appeals youngsters to shun violence

Srinagar: Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday sought support of the people to take the Union Territory out of the shadows of “fear, unemployment and helplessness”.

Azad, who quit the Congress last month, said he will not rake up emotive issues like “freedom”, “autonomy” or “self-rule”, but will only talk about issues which can be achieved.

“I am not like those leaders that I will play with your sentiments to win elections,” he said, addressing a public meeting at Dak Bungalow in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

Azad said there are two ways to become a leader — one by raking up emotive slogans and the other by talking only about those issues which are under one’s control.

“I will say you will get freedom, but you will not get it. Have you got it in the last 75 years? I will say you will get autonomy (NC’s plank) or the self-rule (PDP’s plank). Many elections were fought on these slogans, you have experienced, but there have been no results. Instead, they have only added to the death count. So, why should I raise such slogans?” the veteran leader said.

Azad said if some people were promising the return of Article 370 — which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019 — “let them”, but he will not guarantee people something over which he has no control.

“What happened to the previous promises those people made? …I can promise you development. I will ensure you have a dignified life. I promise you that no policeman or army-man will knock the doors of the houses of my Gujjar-Bakerwal or Kashmiri brothers in the dead of the night.

“I promise you that the children of poor or even rich people will not be jailed and sent to Kathua or any other jail in the country for money. I promise you that no one will disrespect our sisters and daughters,” he said.

The former chief minister also promised that there will not be “fake” encounters.

He said Union Home Minister Amit Shah has promised on the floor of Parliament that Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood will be restored.

“Once the statehood is restored, I can also guarantee land and job rights in J&K will be given only to the people of J&K,” Azad said, adding “I cannot give you those guarantees which are not in my hand”.

Pointing to J&K’s tourism potential and the employment the sector can generate, he said he has “experience and many schemes in mind” which can bring two crore tourists to the UT every year.

“These things can be done as I have done in the past,” he added.

The former leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha said he was perhaps the only politician in the country to have gone to the people first before forming a political party.

“Ninety-nine percent people first form a party and then go to the people. I think I am the first person in the country or even the world, who is forming a party after meeting public delegations.

“My experience taught me that I should go to the people first, ask them if they will support me or not and then form a party. When the people support me, then all of them will be Ghulam Nabi Azad because they will be a part of the decisions of that party,” Azad said.

Addressing his supporters, he asked them if they would permit him to form a new political party, to which they replied in affirmative.

“Will you run the new party? Will you help in bringing it to power? Will you support my agenda of making ‘Khushaal Kashmir’?” Azad asked. The people responded “Zaroor” (surely).

“I could have gotten lost in the politics at the national level, reached the zenith. But, I thought, my home, J&K, is burning; it is living under the shadow of unemployment, fear and helplessness, and I have to help it,” he said, appealing to the people to support him.

He said Pakistan is to blame for the sufferings of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and appealed to the youngsters who have taken up arms to shun the path of violence.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister also said he is not afraid of threats issued to him by any terror outfit.

Azad said, “There are some people across the border who have not been able to set their own country right after the partition, but have taken the pledge of destroying our country and Jammu and Kashmir.

“About one lakh of our children have been killed. Some were killed by terrorists, some in encounters. Over 50,000 sisters and daughters became widows, three-four lakh children were orphaned.”

The former Union minister appealed to those youngsters who have picked up guns to shun the path of violence.

“Picking up guns is not a solution. It only brings destruction in your life, to your family and to the country. Mahatma Gandhi did not pick up a gun or a sword or did not fire a missile to defeat the British. Whichever Muslim country — from Afghanistan to Iraq to Palestine — took to guns, took to militancy, was destroyed,” he said.

Responding to the reports of a threat to his life issued by The Resistance Front (TRF) — an offshoot of proscribed terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) — Azad said he is not scared of anyone.

He also said reports of his meeting with National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval before leaving for Jammu and Kashmir were false.

“I heard about the reports that terrorists have issued a threat to kill me. They have said I met (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah and Doval before coming here. I have never met Doval in my life. I swear by God. Yes, I have met Shah as he is the home minister and I was in Parliament. It was part of my work. I meet people from various parties.

“I am Ghulam-e-Nabi (the slave of the Prophet -SAW) and not anyone else’s slave. My name is Azad and my thinking is Azad (independent) as well,” the former leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha asserted.

The public meeting at Anantnag was the last scheduled part of Azad’s programme in J&K after he quit the Congress party on August 26. He held a public rally in Jammu on September 04. In Kashmir, he addressed his first public meeting in Baramulla on September 11 and also met various delegations which called on him during his stay in the Valley. (With PTI inputs)

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