National Conference leader Omar Abdullah says in a new book that he will neither be “Indian enough for extreme right-wing nationalist politicians” nor “Kashmiri enough for those who don’t see Kashmir’s future as part of India”. It is therefore best to be true to oneself, Abdullah said in the recently launched “India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next Generation of Political Leaders”.
Abdullah was detained when the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on August 5 last year. He said his 232-day detention period has made him “bitter”, “resentful” and “angry” but it won’t change his time-tested stand that Jammu and Kashmir “is an integral part of India”.
“Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. As much as I would like to say that my detention and the circumstances of the 5th of August have caused me to shift my thinking on that, it hasn’t. “Because the position I’ve taken takes into account all sorts of factors, and I do not believe that Jammu & Kashmir has a future for itself outside of its relationship with India,” Abdullah said in an interview to the authors, Pradeep Chhibber and Harsh Shah.
The book gives readers a snapshot of contemporary Indian politics through interviews of 20 of the country’s most prominent next-generation politicians. “I have reconciled myself to the fact that I will never be Indian enough for extreme right-wing nationalist politicians. But then I’ll also not be Kashmiri enough for those who don’t see Kashmir’s future as part of India. And, therefore, it is best to be true to oneself,” Abdullah said.
Nothing, he stressed, justifies “what India did to J&K on the 5th of August, 2019”.
Not mincing his words, the 50-year-old politician said he believes Jammu and Kashmir has been treated “very, very badly” and “every single promise made to it has been broken”.
“… it’s going to be very difficult for people like me to continue to justify why I believe Jammu & Kashmir must be a part of India. Delhi hasn’t left us with much to talk about,” he added.
That said, Abdullah is very clear that he won’t ask the government of the day to reverse its position on the revocation of Article 370 and Article 35 A or convert the newly formed UT back into its original position of a state.
“… why would I ask Mr. Modi to reverse what Mr. Modi has done? It’s stupid. It’s pointless. It’s just tokenism. It’s the worst form of politics because all I’d be doing is trying to appease the voters, knowing full well that nothing will come out of it. And I don’t want to do that. I think the politics of appeasement is the worst thing I can do to people here,” he explained.
The NC has challenged the Centre’s decisions to scrap provisions of Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two union territories in the Supreme Court.
Discussing his eight-month detention, which he initially thought would last for “a week or two”, Abdullah said he still struggles to understand why he and other leaders, part of the mainstream, were treated the way they were.
“We put our lives on the line to fight elections in Jammu and Kashmir. And ironically, that was cited as a reason to continue to detain us. One of the clauses in my detention order talks about how I was able to influence people to come out and vote in large numbers in spite of a boycott call and a militant threat.
“I never realized that this was something that could be used against me. Tomorrow, how am I going to convince people to come out and vote? What am I going to tell them?” he asked.
Abdullah was taken into custody soon after the Centre announced it was scrapping Article 370 on August 5, 2019. He was charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in February and released on March 24, 2020.
His father, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, was also charged under the PSA and released on March 13 after 221 days in detention. PDP leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti continues to be under detention at her home.
According to Omar Abdullah, he went through the entire spectrum of emotions during his detention period — “from anger to frustration to resentment to bitterness to sort of resigning myself to what had happened, and then going back to being angry about being detained and frustrated about it”.
“So, I mean, the overwhelming feeling that I have come out of detention with is a whole lot of bitterness and anger, which I’m trying to come to terms with. But I think it will be a while until I do,” he added.