Srinagar: National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s announcement that petitions regarding the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution would be listed after the summer vacation and appealed to the Chief Justice of India to hold the hearings on a fast-track basis.
“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to constitute a bench after the summer vacation. We understand that due to COVID-19, the petitions could not be listed earlier but we would now request the CJI that the hearings be held on a fast-track basis. “Since August 2019, many changes have taken place, which should not have happened. Any further delay would mean that it would be difficult to reverse the changes,” Abdullah told reporters here.
The Centre abrogated the provisions of Article 370 on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Abdullah was interacting with the youth leaders of the NC at the party headquarters here.
Asked if the meetings were related to elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the NC vice-president said there was no connection.
“I am meeting youngsters to understand what they think and what problems they face,” he said.
Asked about the delimitation commission’s report, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said his party has told the panel that its very existence is illegal.
“We have put before the delimitation commission that its existence itself is illegal. We have challenged the reorganisation act, which means that the delimitation commission has also been challenged.
“That is why we want fast-tracked hearings and a judgment by the court,” he said.
Abdullah said the NC had put forward various suggestions before the commission, but those were ignored.
“Whatever happened has happened. Let the final report come, then only we will have a detailed chat with you on this,” he said.
On reports about a special school in Baramulla asking its teachers not to wear hijab, the former Union minister said it was wrong on the school’s part.
“Everyone has the freedom to follow his or her religion in this country. It is enshrined in our Constitution that we are a secular country, which means all religions are equal. I do not think any government should interfere in this.
“This is playing with such a danger that can pose problems for the country. We would like that such decisions should not be taken. People of all faiths should be free to follow their religion,” Abdullah said.
“We hope that the effort to bring Karnataka into Jammu and Kashmir will be stopped forthwith,” he added, referring to a recent controversy in the southern state over students wearing hijab in educational institutions.
Abdullah said the reason given by the Baramulla school for the diktat was not right.
“The reason given is just not right. This school did not start yesterday. These teachers (who wear hijab) must have been interacting with the students earlier also. What changed overnight?” he asked.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister described it as an attempt to create an atmosphere for politics.
“We are told not to use loudspeakers for azaan. Why? We do not tell you that you should not use loudspeakers at temples. You are telling us halal meat should not be sold. Why? We are not forcing you to eat. Show me where has a Muslim forced a non-Muslim to eat halal.
“It is just that you have a problem with our way of life. Why?” he asked.
Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to a secular nation.
“This was not the India we had acceded to. We had acceded to a secular India where all religions were equal.
“We were not told that one religion will be treated as superior to others. Had we been told this, may be our decision would have been different,” he said.
Asked if the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) will contest the election as an alliance, Abdullah said it was for the leaders involved to decide.
“I am not an office-bearer of the PAGD. But I can give my personal opinion…. I would like that the PAGD contests the election as an alliance. We should not allow the BJP and its B team and C team to divide votes. This will be my suggestion, but the final decision has to be taken by the PAGD,” he added