Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday threw a challenge to Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying he was ready for a debate on Article 370 "anytime, anywhere".
"If they want a debate on Article 370 with me, let them tell me where and when they want to talk about it. Even if they want to hold the debate in Ahmedabad, we are ready for the debate anytime," Omar said at public rally in Srinagar. He was reacting to the Gujarat chief minister's call for a debate on Article 370 and whether it has benefited the people of the state.
"I am surprised that those who know nothing about Jammu and Kashmir are commenting on Jammu and Kashmir. Those who have not read Article 370 are talking about it. Article 370 does not talk about property rights or the residency laws. Article 370 is a provision that connects this state to the rest of the country," he said, referring to the points raised by Modi during his rally at Jammu on December 1.
"We know who has damaged Article 370 and how much it has affected the state of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Omar also criticised, what he called, Modi's "lack of knowledge" about the people of Jammu and Kashmir. "I am more surprised that those who are occupying high positions, and dream of occupying higher position, how little knowledge they have about the people of Jammu and Kashmir. One such leader made a speech in Jammu recently and claimed that injustice is being done to Gujjars in the state.
"Ours is perhaps the only state which has given Scheduled Tribe status to the community. Modi sahib, if you had to raise this issue, you should have done it in Rajasthan where Gujjars are sacrificing their lives for this status," he said.
The chief minister said Modi lacked basic knowledge of the Shia community and criticised him for not raising the issue of Kashmiri Pandits during his Jammu visit. Omar said his National Conference has been maintaining that Kashmir was incomplete without the Pandits and it was imperative that they should return to the Valley. "It was the slogan of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah 'Sher-e-Kashmir ka kaya irshad, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh Itehaad'. We don't divide people, we don't pit people against each other," he said.
Omar was addressing a public rally organised to mark the 108th birth anniversary of National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah here. He said Modi lacked basic knowledge about the Shia community, whose cause he had tried to champion during his speech in Jammu.
"You talked about Shias and said injustice is being done to the community. Now tell me Modi sahib, what do you know about Shias? The Gujarat chief minister does not know whether the month of Muharram is a period of mourning or celebration.”
"I was surprised to see a statement issued by his government congratulating the Muslims of his state on Muharram and claiming that the Muslims of Gujarat were celebrating the occasion with fervor. This is your knowledge," he said.
"And you forgot the section of the society which you tried your best to represent. You did not make even a passing mention about the Kashmiri pandits," he said.