Ghulam Nabi Azad unveils Jammu and Kashmir roadmap, says will fight for right to land and jobs for locals

Former Congress leaders holds first rally in Jammu

September 04, 2022 03:16 pm | Updated 05:47 pm IST - JAMMU:

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad waves at supporters on his arrival at the Jammu airport in Jammu, on September 4, 2022.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad waves at supporters on his arrival at the Jammu airport in Jammu, on September 4, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Former Chief Minister and ex-Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday made his roadmap for Jammu and Kashmir public and stressed on the restoration of “full statehood and right to land and employment to native domiciles”, while distancing from any emotive demands like pre-August 5, 2019 position or unification of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir.

“Our agenda is for all. We will fight for the restoration of full statehood and the right to land and employment to native domiciles. We don’t want an assembly with a Lieutenant Governor but a Governor. We don’t want outsiders to apply in J&K for jobs, which equals a drop in the ocean. If they (outsiders) apply, jobs will vanish for locals,” Mr. Azad said in Jammu.

Mr. Azad was addressing his first rally in Jammu since he quit the Congress last month. He plans to launch a political party soon.

The former J&K CM was cautious to touch on any emotive issues like other regional parties in the Union Territory (UT) like Article 370, seeking restoration of pre-August 5, 2019 position, mentioning Pakistan or demand to re-unify the erstwhile J&K, which included Ladakh.

In a fleeting reference to J&K’s special status, Mr. Azad said it was the Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh who negotiated a J&K constitution within the Indian constitution in 1947.

“All the Indian prime ministers (PMs), including non-Congress PMs, accepted it (J&K constitution) in both the houses of the Parliament. Who am I to question or criticise it,” he said.

Elaborating on his roadmap for the UT, Mr. Azad said he will work for “honour, dignity, integrity of the people of J&K.” “For that we need confidence building. Also, we need to exhibit brotherhood and break the sand walls of hatred created between communities. Hindus, Muslims and Christians are my heart beats,” Mr. Azad said.

He said the people of J&K will decide on a name for his party and a flag “by taking into consideration Ganga-Jamani culture”. “Our party name will neither reflect Moulvi’s Urdu nor Pandit’s Sanskrit but Hindustani, a popular language across the country,” he said.

Mr. Azad said he has plans to work on generating employment for both educated unemployed and less-educated unemployed. “I have seen the mountains of J&K closely. Places like Bungas and Tosaimadan will accommodate over one crore tourists. This needs vision. J&K is home to a treasure,” Mr. Azad said.

He lamented how locals were engaged on an ad-hoc and daily wage basis in J&K for decades. “These employed people are living off on a paltry ₹3000 per month. It surprises me what they eat and what they wear,” he added.

He said even the licenses for sand extraction and for wine shops have gone to outsiders in the past few years and affected the locals and their families. “Out of 250 wine shops in Jammu, most are run by outsiders,” he said.

Mr. Azad stressed that rural areas in J&K need hospitals while urban centres require super specialty facilities. “We will work for an equitable development of both the regions (Kashmir and Jammu) of J&K,” he said.

Referring to human rights violations witnessed in J&K in the past, Mr. Azad said all communities have suffered, including Hindus and Muslims. “I want all those migrant Pandits who intend to return should do that. The killings witnessed recently should stop. When I was chief minister, accommodations were set up in many districts for Pandits. I want return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits,” Mr. Azad said.

He called himself a three-in-one Indian, who is partly from Kashmir, from Jammu, and from the mainland, while referring to his first elections contested from Maharashtra.

Mr. Azad said if he was not the leader of the Opposition in 2019, he too would have been arrested like other CMs after August 5, 2019. “My arrest would have attracted global criticism,” he added.

Mr. Azad said he made constant efforts to visit J&K after August 5, 2019, when J&K’s special status was ended, “but was stopped for hours together at the Srinagar and Jammu airports”.

“Later, I approached the Supreme Court. It allowed me to visit J&K and take stock of the situation and ensure no politics. I did visit J&K and submitted my report to the court. What did those who criticise me do after August 5, 2019? These leaders only led people astray,” he said, without naming anyone.

‘Let Congress be happy with tweets, I by living on the ground’ 

Attacking the parent organisation Congress, Mr. Azad said he witnessed jail along with Indira Gandhi in the past and never compromised with his principles.

“These days when Congress leaders are arrested they call police heads to release them within an hour. That is why the Congress is not moving ahead. I have spent nights in rural India for the party. We have built the Congress with our blood,” he said.

In an oblique reference to Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Azad said, “Congress is not made by computers, tweets, SMSes. It’s sad that misinformation about me is being created on WhatsApp. I wish the Congress lives in their tweets and I get to live on the ground with ordinary and poor people,” Mr. Azad said.

‘Fast tracked development in J&K’

Recalling his 2.5 years of chief ministership of J&K, Mr. Azad said he introduced the triple shift work system to complete development projects, which is not even practiced in countries like Britain. 

“My CM-ship was a guest appearance. However, I fast tracked the system. Asia’s biggest Tulip garden was completed in one-and-a-half-year, a Haj House in eight months, a Yatri niwas in three months, J&K Assembly complex in 11 months. I managed to end corruption and set up the first golf course in Jammu. I wanted to construct a lake in Jammu but that couldn’t happen,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Azad praised the local leaders who joined him in the past two weeks. “These leaders tendered resignations and informed me about their joining. This is just a start. Keep a watch on the coming days,” Mr. Azad said.  

Mr. Azad will be travelling to the Chenab valley and the Kashmir valley after the four-day Jammu tour.

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