After BJP assault, PDP, NC underline secular values

Srinagar, Oct 9 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and opposition leader Omar Abdullah came together on Friday to call for upholding the state’s secular and pluralistic values.

Speaking on near similar lines on religious tolerance, Sayeed and Omar Abdullah spoke eloquently as the assembly unanimously passed a resolution pledging to uphold the ethos of the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

“We have been elected to set an example here,” National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, moving the resolution.

“What we are witnessing today (in the state) isn’t a reflection of our religious tolerance and communal amity.”

His comments come a day after two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators assaulted an independent legislator, Engineer Rashid, in the assembly on Thursday for hosting a beef party.

Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh of the BJP apologized for the attack, which drew wide condemnation, including from Chief Minister Sayeed, whose PDP rules the state with the BJP as its ally.

Saying Kashmiris had always upheld communal harmony, Omar Abdullah said: “We should respect religious sentiments and aspirations of every region in the state.

“The unruly scenes witnessed in the assembly (on Thursday) should not happen again.”

Chief Minister Sayeed said Kashmir had to be a beacon to strengthen India’s secularism and the country’s inclusive nature must be preserved.

He said when the sub-continent was caught up in communal flames in 1947, Kashmiris embraced a secular path.

He went on to praise Omar Abdullah’s grandfather and National Conference founder Sheikh Abdullah’s “vision of tolerance and brotherhood”.

He said Sheikh Abdullah converted his Muslim Conference into the National Conference in 1938 and opted for a path different from that of Muslim League founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah who founded Pakistan.

“Despite Jinnah sahib’s popularity, Kashmiris sided with Sheikh in his mission of religious tolerance and secularism,” Sayeed said.

Kashmir had to act as a model of secularism, he said.

“I am thankful to former prime minister Indira Gandhi for persuading Sheikh to come back to the assembly, which eventually cleared the way for people like me and others to become members of this house.”

Taking a larger view, Sayeed said the 17 crore Indian Muslims had always supported secular parties.

He also thanked Omar Abdullah for bringing in the resolution.

The resolution was later adopted unanimously as members from the Peoples Democratic Party, the National Conference, the Congress and the BJP as well as independents raised their hands in support.

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