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NL Interview: Omar Abdullah on Kashmir, Kashmiriyat, and why Modi is no Vajpayee

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister insists that the dismantling of the erstwhile state’s autonomy was ‘entirely illegal and unconstitutional’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Omar Abdullah has served as the chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, as a member of parliament, and as India’s junior foreign minister. He spent months in detention after the Narendra Modi government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of the last vestiges of its autonomy and split it into two territories ruled directly by New Delhi. Over a year on, Abdullah speaks with Abhinandan Sekhri about the situation in Kashmir, and where he and his party, the National Conference, stand in the new scheme of things.

Comparing the BJP’s Kashmir policy under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, he remarks that he and fellow “mainstream” politicians were seen as allies by the former but are considered adversaries by the latter. Abdullah recalls that Vajpayee took along not just his allies but even the opposition while dealing with critical issues such as the Kargil war and the international fallout from the Pokhran nuclear tests. Vajpayee made it a point to build consensus on important issues, quite unlike the Modi regime.“It’s hard to imagine that the mothership of both these governments is the same, the BJP,” he says.

The Vajpayee government came close to resolving the Kashmir problem, he says, because the late prime minister didn’t treat it on the basis of what the Sangh Parivar felt. The same was the case for relations with Pakistan. The Vajpayee regime initiated talks with Islamabad on Kashmir despite the parliament attack. The talks were inconclusive but that they even happened was a big deal for Kashmir, he adds.

On the abrogation of Article 370, Abdullah reiterates his position that what happened on August 5 last year was “entirely illegal and unconstitutional”. He and his party feel they have a strong legal case and hope to get the Supreme Court to hear it on an urgent basis.

Talking about the idea of Kashmiriyat and it's legitimacy, Abdullah says when communities from even the same religion or caste live so close together, conflicts are to be expected. But in spite of the conflicts, he grew up understanding the culture of Kashmiri Pandits as they did that of Kashmiri Muslims. This understanding is missing today, he rues. However, he says that examples of Kashmiriyat exist in the valley even today, so to say that the concept is hokum would be inaccurate.

Watch.

Text by Prakriti Singh.

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