Srinagar: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said he feels like “coming home” when he visits the Kashmir Valley as he pitched for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood before holding assembly elections.
Addressing his party workers after inaugurating a new party headquarters here, a visibly emotional Gandhi said, “My family lives in Delhi. Before that my family lived in Allahabad. And before Allahabad, my family lived here.”
“I can tell you that I understand you, my family must have drank water from the river Jhelum. Kashmiriyat, the culture and thought process must be in me too. When I come here, I feel like I am coming home,” he said, while referring to his family ties to Kashmir and added that he had come with a message of love and respect.
Gandhi, a former Congress president, said that there was an urgent need for restoration of statehood before holding the assembly elections. “Statehood should be restored and then the democratic process should be started, that is election (to state assembly),” he said. Before the event, Gandhi offered prayers at the Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine, the revered shrine of Kashmiri Pandits, in Ganderbal in central Kashmir.
Reacting to the suggestion of senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad that a bill for restoration of statehood to J&K be brought during the current session of Parliament, Gandhi said there were several issues that he wanted to raise in Parliament, but the opposition was not allowed to speak there. He said he was told by his colleagues that J&K was not a big state with many Lok Sabha seats, but stressed upon the importance of the place. “It is not a state with many Lok Sabh seats…It is not even a state now. But the strength of J&K is the way you live. India and its foundation has Kashmiriyat. This feeling is in me too. What you can get me to do with love and affection, you will never achieve it through force and hatred. That is Kashmiriyat. If you own J&K with love and respect, you will get done whatever you want to,” he said.
The former Congress president said when his party was in power, it tried to unite and join the country, but the BJP believes in divisive ideology. “When we were in power, we started lots of programmes like Panchayat elections, Udaan, etc. We also brought in industrialists to invest in J&K. We were trying to unite and join. They (BJP) have attacked it,” he added. He said the new office building of the party’s J&K unit is a new beginning and added that the workers were the party’s army.
“I tried to come here earlier also, before Covid outbreak, but I was not allowed beyond the airport,” he said, referring to his visit immediately after the Centre’s August 2019 decisions to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate in into union territories. “I will visit Jammu and Ladakh as well,” he added.