The entire population of J&K concerned over changes to its status: Azad

ByHT Correspondent | Edited by Sameer
Feb 12, 2021 10:42 AM IST

Article 370 was nullified in August 2019 to strip Jammu & Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status. The state was also divided into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has said the entire population of Jammu & Kashmir is concerned not just because of the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 but also the division and downgrading of the state to a Union Territory (UT).

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (PTI)
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (PTI)

“We have been reduced to ashes,” he said in an interview with HT days before he is due to retire from Rajya Sabha on Monday. “I have only seen up-gradation of UTs [Union Territories] into states, and my own state, which is among the largest and oldest states in the country, has been made a UT. Nobody can digest that.”

Article 370 was nullified in August 2019 to strip Jammu & Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status. The state was also divided into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. A lockdown and communications blackout were imposed in the region and hundreds of people, including three former chief ministers, were detained to prevent protests against the changes to its constitutional status. The changes have triggered concerns about land rights and jobs in the region. The semi-autonomous status prevented non-residents from getting government jobs and buying land in Jammu & Kashmir.

Also Read | ‘I will join the BJP when we have black snow in Kashmir’: Ghulam Nabi Azad

Azad said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotional farewell speech on the former’s retirement will not affect the issues of Jammu & Kashmir. Modi on Tuesday heaped praise on Azad and called him a leader who cared for his party, country, and Parliament. He broke down while recalling experiences with Azad.

Azad said they have known each other since the 90s when they were both general secretaries of their parties. “...we used to come on TV debates representing different views; we used to fight also in the debates. But, if we reached early, we used to share a cup of tea also and chit-chat. Later we knew each other as chief ministers, meeting at the Prime Minister’s meetings, home minister’s meetings. Then he was CM [chief minister] and I was health minister, and we would speak every 10-15 days on different issues.”

Also Read | Very difficult for a young Muslim leader to aspire to be India’s Prime Minister: Azad

Azad said he did not know in which sense Congress leader Shashi Tharoor described Modi’s crying as an “artfully crafted performance”. “...most of the people did not know the background. A lot of people thought the PM [Prime Minister] was doing it artificially, because why should he bother that a Congressman is going. As I said, the words he used were for me, but our emotion was in a different context.” Azad said they cried not because they knew each other, but the reason was that, in 2006, a Gujarati tourist bus was attacked in Kashmir. “...I broke down while speaking to him. The PM [Modi] was saying that here is a person who is retiring who is also a good human being. He could not complete the story because he broke down, and when I wanted to complete the story, I could not because I felt I was back in that moment 14 years ago when the attack took place.”

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