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Will fight for return of our rights, says Farooq Abdullah

National Conference chief Dr. Farooq Abdullah during an interview at his residence in Srinagar, on August 24, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

National Conference (NC) president and former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is leading a formation of around six political parties, on Monday said all these parties would start a campaign in Ladakh and Jammu soon “to fight for return of rights of people” as per the Gupkar Declaration.

“The recent joint statement was a reiteration of what we said on August 4 last year. I hope Ms. [Mehbooba] Mufti is freed soon and we will carry this fight forward not only in Kashmir but will have people of Jammu, Leh and Kargil with us. It’s a fight for our rights,” Dr. Abdullah, also the Member of Parliament from Srinagar, told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.

Also read: BJP critical of joint front of six J&K parties

Mr. Abdullah, who was detained for several months after August 5 last year, said, “There will be no unilateral decision accepted by one party or by one Farooq Abdullah now. The goal will be achieved in which the honour of our people and of this [erstwhile] State is restored. It’s not a fight for power.”

He did not rule out the new grouping turning into an electoral alliance in the future. “We need to sit together to take a final call on this,” he said.

Recounting his days in detention, Dr. Abdullah said he was “treated like a criminal”.

Also read: After release, all eyes are on Farooq Abdullah’s next move

“I was called a thief. I was slapped with draconian law. That I am a terrorist. I was an MP but without a phone-line. I wonder whether I would have been better off as a terrorist,” Dr. Abdullah added.

He said watching his daughter collapse at the door when he was detained was “the second-most difficult moment of his life”.

Also read: Farooq Abdullah visits incarcerated Mehbooba Mufti’s family in Srinagar

“We had to get doctors to treat her for some days. That was the most tragic. I had to bear this all. I survived because of the Quran. I recited it everyday,” he added.

Dr Abdullah said he blamed “the Prime Minister of India for the new chapter of alienation” in J&K. “Every decision is taken at his level. There is no other man. He made the Home Minister announce it [revocation of J&K's special status]. So that he is above it,” Dr. Abdullah said.

Excerpts from interview:

Two political events — on August 9, 1953 and August 5, 2019 — have reshaped J&K’s course. Are there any parallels?

August 9, 1953 was the first blow to the autonomy of the State. My father was arrested and was taken to the Udhampur Palace.

Our own Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers have betrayed the people. The erosion of Article 370 had taken place by our own people. Delhi was behind it but we were the instruments of theirs to do that. This time, the change was that they did not find our people to betray. They tried with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but couldn’t do it. That is why this lady [PDP president Mehbooba Mufti] is suffering as they want to punish her. Yes, they tried to persuade a splinter group of the PDP to implement changes on the ground. They failed. Thus they took this thing [revoking J&K’s special status] to Parliament and their own Governor, with no Assembly or Chief Minister to back it. The people governing Delhi believe in no Constitution. I am sure one day if they have their way, they will throw the Constitution into Ganga or Jamuna. There is every possibility. These fascists can do anything.

Do you regret the decision to return to politics in 1996 on the persuasion of New Delhi at a time when J&K was facing the peak of militancy?

We sought guarantees from the Prime Minister of the day, P.V. Narasimha Rao. On the floor of Parliament, he announced that “we will restore autonomy of the State to the sky, sky is the limit but no freedom or azaadi”. We never asked for azaadi but for our rights to be returned. He promised. It’s on that promise [that] I went to the polls and carried people with me. I was in London when Delhi sent me an emissary, Harkishan Singh Surjeet of the CPI(M), to see me. Before that George Fernandes came to see me and kept on telling me that the State is going downhill...  I said I will come but first we will have to talk to the PM. Let him listen to us. Our senior colleagues met the PM and pointed out how it was for [NC founder] Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah that J&K chose for India because we have Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists. I never thought I would be repaid in this fashion. I always thought they would increase our degree of autonomy. We never revolted against India. My people died, my Ministers and workers died holding the tricolour. Did they realise this before they did August 5? Who was here in 1996? Was the BJP here or any party? I was alone.

How were you treated during your detention?

I was treated like a criminal. That I am a thief and the three families have looted the place. That I am a terrorist. I wonder whether I would have been better off as a terrorist. It reminds me of an English saying “I wish I had served my lord more than I served the king, this would not have been my fate”. I wish I could have served my people better and thought of them.

Did you meet former RAW chief A.S. Dulat as Delhi’s emissary during detention?

Yes. He came to see me and he must have been sent by them to see whether I have come down, I have compromised and if I was ready for this or that. He had lunch with me. I said no. He later gave an interview, which they didn’t expect him to. That exposed them that they gave him a special plane. I don’t think they talk to him any more.

Is the Gupkar Declaration also about an electoral alliance? The Declaration has a line in it “Nothing about us without us”.

Elections are not. When announced, every party will decide first. And then collectively we will think about it and take a final decision.

People are accusing you of changing the goalpost from the restoration of pre-1953 position to pre–August 5 position.

The National Conference (NC) stands for pre-1953 position and the Gupkar Declaration stands for August 4, 2019. The NC’s fight will continue for that.

The Lt. Governor's administration claims a number of development projects are underway in J&K for the first time.

The L-G sits in the palace and his great advisers click pictures of meeting with people. Could they show guts to go and meet ordinary people in  a village or go to Jamia Masjid without security bandobast and with every street blocked? They are living in the cuckoo world.

Why did you stay away from the official August 15 function?

We were invited for the LG’s swearing-in when all of my people were locked up. How will Farooq Abdullah go and have tea when people are dying and suffering? I didn’t go to August 15 as we celebrated it as a black day.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 6:40:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/will-fight-for-return-of-our-rights-says-farooq-abdullah/article32432179.ece

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