Targeting minority community won’t help country become strong nation: Omar Abdullah

Srinagar, May 5 (PTI) National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah on Sunday criticised the BJP for anti-Muslim rhetoric during elections and said targeting the 14 per cent of India’s population won’t strengthen the nation.

Speaking at a rally in downtown Srinagar in support of his party candidate Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, Abdullah emphasised the need for harmony post-elections and the importance of fostering dialogue with Pakistan.

Abdullah said there have been instances during the campaigning when several top BJP leaders targeted Muslims.

“My worry is that this hatred against Muslims is not limited to election-time only but continues even after that. Now you tell me, India is a house to a large number of Muslims which comprise 14 per cent of the population.

“Targeting the minority community will not help the country become a strong nation,” Abdullah said.

Citing recent attacks in regions like Poonch, he expressed concerns over the resurgence of militancy.

One soldier was killed and four were injured as terrorists ambushed an Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district on Saturday, three weeks ahead of polling in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency.

Talking about challenging circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah criticised the BJP-led government’s policies and called for improving security in the region.

“I have time and again warned but the BJP is not ready to accept the reality. In the last four years or so, the areas which had been freed from terrorism, are seeing a resurgence of militancy, especially Srinagar city, which has witnessed repeated terror attacks, and Rajouri and Poonch,” Abdullah said.

He said that during his tenure as chief minister between 2009-2014, these areas were free of militancy. “Yesterday’s attack on soldiers is a grim reminder that the situation is far away from being normal.”

Asked about his father Farooq Abdullah’s demanding talks with Pakistan, he said, “Our late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said that we can change our friends but not neighbours. Pakistan has been our neighbour yesterday and will be there tomorrow.

“Some day, we will have to talk to our neighbour. But having said that I have always made it clear that both the countries have to build an atmosphere for talks. Pakistan has a new government in place and it should work hard to build an atmosphere for talks with India where a new government will come after elections,” he said.

Asked about a statement made by the BJP of reclaiming the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), he said, “No one has stopped them from reclaiming the PoK but for God’s sake, the part of Jammu and Kashmir that has been with India needs a course correction first. The centre should work on improving the security situation here also.”

The former chief minister said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are going through a very difficult time as “our lips are sealed, our voices are not heard and our government offices are filled with outsiders.”

Addressing his first election rally at Hawal in downtown Srinagar, Omar alleged that Muslims are being targeted and insulted by the BJP which has introduced new laws to “weaken” the minority community in the country.

“…the BJP’s agenda is based on hatred,” he said, criticising the party for the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Expressing happiness over the crowds cheering for his party, Omar said, “This is the same Shehr-e-Khas (the downtown Srinagar) which gave us freedom from (political) slavery.

“Today, we are in the same situation. Our lips are sealed, our voices are not heard and our government offices are filled with outsiders,” he said.

Demanding support for Mehdi, Omar said Srinagar is going to polls on May 13 and there are many candidates in the fray. “It is up to you to decide who is the best candidate who can represent you in the parliament.”

Criticising the current administration for “failing” to deliver on various fronts, he said fearless leaders like Mehdi can play crucial role in representing the community’s aspirations in parliament.

“After the abrogation of Article 370, the BJP government said there will be prosperity in Kashmir. But where is that prosperity?” he asked.

Abdullah said the NC gave ticket to Mehdi from the Srinagar seat, which has been represented by party president Farooq Abdullah in past, “because we wanted a candidate who will fearlessly talk about the aspirations of people”.

“He (Mehdi) is one such strong voice. He does not care about what enemies say. He will say the truth come what may and our community needs such a leader,” he said.

Criticising long power cuts, Abdullah said after the installation of smart meters, people were promised round-the-clock electricity but “today we are facing 12-hour power cuts”.

As the political landscape evolves, Abdullah hinted at the upcoming Assembly elections as the final battleground for stakeholders and said “this is the semi-final only and the final is yet to come”.

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