SRINAGAR: Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, launched a scathing attack on the BJP-led government, accusing it of perpetuating false development narratives and delaying elections in the region since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah walking towards his father’s house after being released from detention after eighty months on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Speaking in Delhi at an Idea Of India Summit, a media concave, Abdullah criticised the government’s failure to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir even five years after the revocation of Article 370. “Shame on you (government) if you can’t hold elections five years after August 5, 2019,” Omar exclaimed, dismayed at the prolonged absence of democratic processes in the region.

In a series of posts on social media platform X, Abdullah’s party quoted him as highlighting the lack of new infrastructure for winter sports in Gulmarg since he left office in 2014. He vehemently refuted accusations of inaction during his tenure, asserting that it was unfair to suggest so. “If we are a democracy, the right to choose rests with the people,” he affirmed, emphasising the importance of democratic principles.

Abdullah also addressed his personal experience under detention, revealing that he was held under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for opposing separatists and actively campaigning against Pakistan’s election boycott call. “They detained me saying that I was a threat to peace. Six months later, they detained me under the Public Safety Act, because I opposed separatists,” Omar insisted, citing his grounds of detention. “I was detained for making elections in India a success by actively campaigning against Pakistan’s election boycott call.” He, however, underscored his commitment to defeating anti-India forces through democratic means.

Omar told his host, Vir Sanghvi interesting details of his detention, his flowing beard and his desperation to have some information about his colleagues. “I never expected it to be beyond a few days but it prolonged,” he said. “Nobody met me in deletion except the magistrate and a doctor.”

Omar Abdullah in February 2024 at Makkah during his Umrah.

Contrary to the government’s assertions, Abdullah pointed out that the abrogation of Article 370 did not alleviate the region’s challenges. He highlighted persistent pockets of separatism and frequent terror attacks, particularly in areas like Poonch and Rajouri. Abdullah criticised the government’s handling of tourism statistics, questioning the validity of inflated numbers and highlighting discrepancies in counting methods.

“This country was told that once Article 370 is gone, all problems such as terrorism, separatism and seeming lack of development will be gone,” Omar explained. “Five years into the abrogation, pocks of separatism continue. Every week there is a terror attack, especially in Poonch and Rajouri.”

Refuting the notion that Article 370 was the cause of Kashmiri Pandits’ migration, Abdullah argued that if it were true, they would have returned following its revocation. “There was no attack on minorities when I was the CM. Today, that is a regular occurrence,” Omar said. “Kashmiri Pandits who had resettled in Kashmir with government jobs and other packages are now screaming to be allowed to leave and move back to Jammu.”

Omar emphasised the need for a nuanced understanding of the region’s complexities, urging genuine efforts towards reconciliation and development.

On the inauguration of the railway track, Omar said its foundation stone was laid when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. He questioned the claims made by the government on tourism. “If the number of tourists had gone from 14 lakh to 1 crore 15 lakh, where had been the tourists sleeping?” he asked. “In their cars? Under the flyover? In our period, we never counted pilgrims as tourists, whether those who would come to Amarnath or Katra. But this government decided to count them as tourists. The actual number of tourists remains the same.”


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