Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday paid obeisance at the Kheer Bhawani temple and Hazratbal shrine before inaugurating a party office in Srinagar.
Gandhi, on his first visit to J&K after the Centre diluted Article 370, hit out at the government for its Kashmir doctrine as he added he had an old association with the UT.
“Our family lives in Delhi, before that in Allahabad and before that in Kashmir. I too believe in Kashmiriyat; a bit of it is in my veins too,” Gandhi said. He added, “We tried to solve Kashmir in a different way by love and engagement but BJP has smashed all the good work. We know J&K people are hurt…I want a relationship of love and understanding. I will stand by you and I will fight to get statehood for you. I am touring Jammu and Ladakh too …this is a beginning. I was stopped at airport two years back and I will come again and again.”
He also slammed the Centre for “not allowing us to speak in Parliament”, saying: “We wanted to raise Pegasus, unemployment, Kashmir, corruption but weren’t allowed…”
Gandhi shared the stage with senior party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad who flayed the Centre for the August 5 move. He said: “16,500 people were jailed; even former chief ministers were not spared.”
Azad reiterated that elections could be held only after the statehood demand was met, adding that the same was conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when J&K leaders met him.
“Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are smaller than J&K but are states. Our land rights were granted and ensured by Maharaja Hari Singh. Joblessness has peaked and industries have collapsed. Three days remain for current Parliament session; Centre can make J&K a state again and pass a bill… it will take five minutes,” Azad said.
In August 2019, the Centre had abrogated Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the region into two territories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This was the first time Gandhi shared the stage with Azad, one of the dissident leaders of the G-23 pack who had criticised the functioning of the Congress, much to the chagrin of the Gandhis.