Jammu: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah Friday questioned the release of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Masood Azhar in Afghanistan by the then BJP government in 1999 in exchange of the hijacked Indian airlines flight IC-814 despite his opposition.
He strongly opposed the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and said the time has come when banning should end, and meeting with these outfits should start.
“Who released Azhar (JeM founder) and who took him to Kandahar (Afghanistan)? The centre should reply. When I told them not to release Azhar, they did not listen to me (at that time). Today I am anti-national and they are national,” Abdullah, who was the chief minister during the hostage crisis in 1999 told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
Azhar was arrested on February 11, 1994 at Khanabal Chowk in Anantnag district of south Kashmir but was released in exchange of passengers of IC-814 on December 31, 1999 by the then BJP government along with two other terrorists.
Asked about the ban on JeI, Abdullah said, “Banning is not the way out because the minute you ban anything they go underground and they become more vicious.”
“The time has come when it is not (about) banning, it is meeting them (recognised/unrecognised entities) politically, that is important. Unless you meet them politically, you are never going to be able to sort out these people,” he said.
The Centre Thursday last banned JeI Jammu and Kashmir for five years under anti-terror law on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and was expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the state.
A notification banning the group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs after a high-level meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asked about the involvement of Hizbul Mujahideen terror outfit, considered JeI’s militant wing, in Thursday’s grenade attack in Jammu which left two persons dead and 31 others injured, the NC leader said, “I do not know whether the group is really JeI’s militant wing.
“I do not know… I have been chief minister and I have never had any such input that they belong to JeI. I think this brigade (responsible for the grenade attack) is the one that is run by Sallauddin from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he said.
In response to another question on the centre’s decision to ban JeI, he said “I am not in power now. Information on them will be available only with the intelligence and the governor who rules (the state) today. I have no intelligence input about them now.”
He said when Jagmohan was the governor of the state JeI schools were banned and those teachers were inducted in government schools.
“Did he do right or did he do wrong? The same people then met the Prime Minister and the home minister so that we could find a way out,” he said, referring to the Hurriyat leaders talks with the centre.
“Look at the history, you have to meet them, not ban them or put them in jail. You have to meet them by talking to them and finding out why are they not part of this nation. What stops them from being part of this nation. That is what we need to do,” he said.
Abdullah further said his party never questioned the air strikes by India in Pakistan on February 26.
In a separate function organised to welcome prominent persons from Basholi area of Kathua district into the party fold, the NC leader called for isolation of divisive forces and maintaining of harmony, saying the politics of divide is against the ethos of the nation and the state, which encompasses all religions, castes and regions.
“We are passing through the most difficult times and there is crucial need of maintaining guard against polarising forces and defeating their machinations by upholding our unity,” Abdullah said.
He said division of society under the guise of ultra-nationalism is all the more dangerous, cautioning that those gloating over such posturing are needed to be isolated.
“Practising hate and intolerance is (a) new low in Indian politics that brings one segment of society face to face against another which is detrimental for amity and brotherhood,” he said.
He said the onus lies on the youth to sensitise the people against divisive politics.
“This may have short-term gains for some but the nation is at a loss by such misadventure,” Abdullah said and advised the youth to get abreast with the chequered history of the country and the state as it will help them analyse political developments in the right perspective.
The history, he regretted, is now being distorted and the version the young minds are being fed is far from the facts.
Abdullah asked the youth to gear up for upcoming elections, saying their entry into public life will bring a fresh breath of life in the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Youths have to be the catalyst of change and National Conference has all along provided an appropriate platform to them and harness their energies in productive pursuits,” he maintained.
Abdullah also dwelled on the prevailing ‘fluid political situation’ and said that being a premier political party of the state, the National Conference cadre had to get further activated to meet the challenges.
“Dejected and disillusioned people of the state are looking towards National Conference with hope and we have to prepare ourselves to meet their aspirations,” he said and asked the functionaries to mobilise workers for identifying the problems.