Uphold secular values, says Kashmir assembly

Uphold secular values, says Kashmir assembly
The Jammu and Kashmir assembly on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution pledging to uphold the state's secular and pluralistic ethos.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah moved the resolution and said: "We have been elected to set an example here. What we are witnessing today (in the state) isn't a reflection of our religious tolerance and communal amity."

The National Conference leader's comments a day after two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators thrashed an independent legislator in the assembly for hosting a beef party.

The state's BJP Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh later apologized for the assault. Abdullah, the opposition leader, said Kashmiris had always upheld communal harmony at crucial moments of history.

"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," he said.

Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said Kashmir had to act as a beacon to strengthen India's secularism and stressed that the country's inclusive nature must be preserved.

He said that at a time when the entire sub-continent was caught up in communal fire during India's independence in 1947, Kashmiris opted for a secular path.

"Even before 1947, people adopted a new vision of tolerance and brotherhood as envisioned by Sheikh Abdullah," Sayeed said.

He said Sheikh Abdullah converted his Muslim Conference into the National Conference in 1938 and opted for a path different from the one Muslim League founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah wished them to follow.

"Despite Jinnah sahib's popularity, Kashmiris sided with Sheikh in his mission of religious tolerance and secularism," he said.

The chief minister said Kashmir had to act as a model of secularism. He said through this assembly resolution, a message should go out to the entire country to preserve its diverse and inclusive nature.

The PDP leader also praised Sheikh Abdullah for bringing reforms in the administration. "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," Sayeed said.

Saying there was a need to win the hearts and minds and uphold secular values, Sayeed said that 17 crore Indian Muslims had always supported secular parties.  He 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 its favour.

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