NEW DELHI: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Friday said the people in the Union Territory were suffering as they continue to be denied their right to a legitimate government and dared the BJP to hold elections there.
“Today, when we are told almost everyday that the situation is far improved. It is as close to normal… I believe, unfortunately, Jammu and Kashmir is that place where democracy in India goes to be buried,” he said.
Addressing a talk on “Kashmir Today” at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) of South Asia here, Abdullah said the “people are suffering” in Jammu and Kashmir and public anger growing.
“Almost everything provokes the people to come out because there is a simmering, sort of, resentment about the way things have been after August 5, 2019. And it is more visible in Jammu than Kashmir,” he said, mentioning installation of smart meters, levying of house tax and operationalisation of toll plazas among others.
The Centre had in 2019 abrogated Article 370 and divided the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
“I can only speculate but the only conclusion I can draw is that the BJP is afraid of what the results will look like. They don’t want to damage their chances in the Parliament elections.
“Because they have gone and told not to the rest of the country but the whole world that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are happy with what happened on August 5, 2019. What other reasons could there be for not having elections in Jammu and Kashmir?” asked Abdullah, Vice President of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC).
He said looking at the mood on the ground even in Jammu, besides the valley where “the BJP of course doesn’t stand much chance anyway”, the BJP and even its associated parties will find it tough going.
“So I guess until the BJP is satisfied that they can produce sizeable number of elected representatives, Jammu and Kashmir will continue to be denied its right to an elected government,” the senior NC leader said.
Abdullah said, not for long ago the Chief Election Commissioner of India had said that “he recognises there is vacuum in Jammu and Kashmir that needs to be filled”.
“Unfortunately, as recently as a few days ago when the elections to the five states were announced, when he was asked about elections in Jammu and Kashmir, he said there were other factors that need to be taken into considerations.
“No attempt has been made to share with the people of Jammu and Kashmir exactly what those factors are that are denying us our legitimate right to an elected government,” Abdullah said.
He asked the Centre to “have the courage to say that the situation is worse than it was before 2019”.
“But if you are going to tell the whole world that the situation is dramatically different and still deny the people of Jammu and Kashmir their right, then something is wrong,” Abdullah said.
He said the state of the media in Jammu and Kashmir is a matter of great concern.
“The fact is that I have never known the media to be as pressured as it is today in terms of what they can report and what they cannot. The fact is that even cartoonists today in Jammu and Kashmir are afraid to draw cartoons about the government,” Abdullah said.
He raised doubts over the claim of increase in tourists and investment in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Please tell us what you have given Jammu and Kashmir post 2019 to justify what you did or for that matter on fresh investment. Show us the sector which has seen investment in J-K whether it is tourism, manufacturing, agriculture or horticulture… Is there something that they can show us. Unfortunately, very little and in the mean time public anger grows,” Abdullah said.