India is too diverse a country to have one national language and the idea of India is that it gives space to everybody, National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said on Thursday.
Talking to reporters, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said it is important to recognise and respect that India is more than just one language, one culture or one religion.
"India is too diverse a country to have one national language. The idea of India is that it gives space to everybody. When you pick up an Indian currency note, how many languages do you find on it?"
"The currency note gives space to all the languages and if the Indian currency note gives space to all the languages, then obviously it is understood that we are more than just one language, more than just one culture, more than just one religion,” he said, replying to a query on a recent controversy over the issue.
"We must give space to everybody. If we do not impose a language in Jammu and Kashmir, why should anybody do it? Let people choose. Why should there be a national language? I do not think a place like India needs a national language, we do not need a national religion. We need to give space to everybody,” Abdullah said.
Asked if communalism had become mainstream and elections are now only fought over Hindu-Muslim issues, he said it was not something new "but now, there has been an increase”.
"It has been mainstreamed like perhaps never before. That is true and it is unfortunate,” he added.
To a question on whether he thinks Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India was a mistake given the situation across the country now, the NC leader answered in the negative, saying no one could have predicted how things would pan out.
"Nobody could predict how things will play out. The accession was not a mistake. I do not believe India has irrevocably adopted this path. But it is a matter of concern. How can it not be? When you have processions outside mosques and there are slogans of 'is mulk mein rehna hai to jai shri Ram kehna hai’ (if you want to live in this country, you will have chant jai shri Ram), what do you think people will feel?"
"I am sorry, but when bulldozers are run over the houses of Muslims and television channel anchors say now there will be a dearth of bulldozers, we will have to import bulldozers, or there will be made in India bulldozers, how do you think we feel?” he asked.
"When television channel anchors climb on bulldozers and tell the driver that you have only destroyed the roof and the walls are still standing, you should destroy it as well, what do you think people will feel? Please understand that there are sentiments attached to this. We understand that politicians will do things for political motives, but people, who we expect will be impartial, when they take a partial position like this, how do you expect us to feel?” Abdullah asked.
Talking about the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir and his remarks on Wednesday that the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) should contest the election as an alliance, the NC leader said it is important that "we put a stop to the detrimental changes that have been instituted in Jammu and Kashmir after August 5, 2019”.
The Centre abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories.
"And the best chance for success in that is for the PAGD to fight the polls together. But the ultimate decision obviously rests with the PAGD. They have to decide, I cannot decide for them,” Abdullah said.
He, however, added that he believes there is a good chance that the PAGD will contest the election as an alliance.
"Ultimately, it is a decision that they will have to take and again, all this is premature speculation. We do not know when they will have the election, if at all. When they do, we will address these issues,” the former Union minister said.
Asked whether his remarks on the alliance were prompted by a recent meeting between People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, Abdullah said everything should not be looked at through the prism of the PAGD.
"She (Mufti) is free to meet anyone she wants. Why must everything she does be looked at from the prism of the PAGD? The same way when (NC president) Farooq Abdullah visits some place, holds programmes, gives speeches, it is not all within the purview of the PAGD. He goes and attends programmes of the DMK. Recently, he was in their programme in Delhi, I was in Chennai."
"We are individual parties also and individual parties do their own work. So I am sure that the meeting (between Mufti and Gandhi) was fruitful, but it does not have to be seen through the prism of the PAGD,” he said.
Asked if he thinks the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will pose a challenge to his party in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls, the former chief minister said every election is a challenge, but the idea is "to stop the onslaught that began on Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019”.