Omar Abdullah: We are treated as if we don't belong to India
SRINAGAR: Pained by the criticism over the communal violence in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday demanded to know why Kashmiris were treated differently.
After taking the salute and hoisting the tricolour at the Bakshi Stadium here amid tight security, Abdullah praised Kashmiris for not letting the communal trouble to take a far more serious shape.
"I want to salute the people of the state for defeating forces who wanted to spread the tensions and vitiate peace and harmony in the state," he said.
"I am often asked why you (Kashmiris) consider yourselves separate from the country's mainstream. I have thought over this question, but an answer was difficult to find.
"When I found how the Kishtwar incident was exploited, I got the answer to the question.
"We are treated differently like we are not part of the mainstream," he added.
Abdullah made it clear that the Hindu-Muslim clashes in Kishtwar, which claimed three lives, deserved the "strongest condemnation".
He said it was sad this incident took place during his administration.
"But this is the fist happening of a communal nature during the last four years I have been in power.
"Is it for the first time such a thing has happened in India? I do not want to say what happened in Kishtwar can be justified because of what happened elsewhere in the country."
The chief minister has been upset the way the Kishtwar flare-up has been used by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to attack the Jammu and Kashmir government and Abdullah per se.
Abdullah cited figures of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat during 2012 and up to March this year.
He also spoke of the recent communal trouble in Bihar.
"For God's sake, tell me does anybody raise this issue in parliament? Did any big leader go to those places to express solidarity with the people there? How many newspaper columns were written about those incidents?
"You want to scrap article 370 (of the Indian constitution) to integrate (Kashmir) fully with the rest of the country, but you treat us separately.
"As long as you do so, integration will not happen by changing clauses of the constitution.
"It will happen when you change your attitude," he added.
The chief minister also spoke of the continuing violations of the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control and the international border by Pakistani troops.
He said as long as these violations continued, peace talks between the two countries would remain affected.
Contingents of police, paramilitary and the army marched at the stadium during the parade.
Security forces were on high alert in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley.
An impregnable security ring was thrown around the Bakshi Stadium, the venue of the main independence day parade in the valley.
The stadium had been declared out of bounds for two days. All roads leading to the stadium were shut since Wednesday evening.
High rise buildings around the stadium which in the past had been used by guerrillas to fire rockets at the venue were taken over by sharpshooters.
Separatists called for a shutdown in the Kashmir valley on Thursday to focus global attention on the Kashmir issue.