New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged on Monday that Jammu and Kashmir was on “ventilator” after the government put it under a “political quarantine” for the last seven months and a half, saying the situation there was worse than what it was even 30 years ago.
Initiating a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bills, the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House of Parliament hoped that the next budget for Jammu and Kashmir would be passed in the Assembly there and all political detainees would be released immediately to help revive political activity in the state.
He also demanded an early grant of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, which has been divided into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, since October 31 last year.
Azad alleged that there was no development in Jammu and Kashmir ever since it was bifurcated into Union territories and deprived of statehood, contrary to the claims made by the BJP-led Centre.
He said it would have been better if the budget for Jammu and Kashmir was discussed in the Assembly there, adding that it was being deliberated upon at a time when the entire world was under the grip of the coronavirus and making efforts to get out of it.
“A quarantine has been imposed, but Jammu and Kashmir is in a political quarantine for the last seven months and a half. We need to get out of it.
“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir now is even worse than what it was 30 years ago,” the Congress leader said.
Stating that there were natural calamities such as floods, earthquake and outbreak of diseases, over which no one had any control, he said, “But the problem in Jammu and Kashmir for seven months and a half is not because of the nature or gods. It is because of the government of our own country. The calamity has not been brought by foreign invaders…the protector itself has become a disaster.”
“Jammu and Kashmir has been put on ventilator…you will have to remove Jammu and Kashmir from ventilator.
“I urge the government to release political workers, leaders and allow political activity. I also urge the government that statehood will have to be restored at the earliest, without any delay. You will have to give land rights like in north-east and Himachal Pradesh,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said.
He said the government should release political prisoners, grant compensation to the seven lakh families that have lost their livelihood due to the shutdown of Jammu and Kashmir and its tourism sector.
The Congress leader also called for creating jobs for the people of the Union territory.
He challenged the ruling party to “show” a single BJP leader from Jammu who agreed to anyone from the country buying land in Jammu or applying for jobs.
Azad said never a step like this (abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating the state in two UTs) was taken in the past, even when killings were taking place and people were fleeing Jammu and Kashmir.
He also countered the government’s charge that the previous Congress governments did not initiate steps for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, saying militancy was at its peak at that time and people were fleeing the state.
Azad pointed out that even the central government headed by BJP’s “tallest leader” Atal Bihari Vajpaee did not take such an action.
“A country is bigger than a promise made by a party. A party could be strengthened by any slogan, but one has to forget the party to earn the trust of the country. Article 370 had to be removed — this is was the promise of a party and it had to be fulfilled, no matter what happened. Vajpayee had also made the promise, but he kept the country first,” he said.