In a veiled attack at the BJP, Azad said the autocratic rule of the maharajas was far better than the current dispensation, which stopped the traditional practice of the biannual ‘Darbar Move’.
Under the Darbar Move, the civil secretariat and other move offices used to function in Srinagar for six months of summer and in Jammu for the remaining six months of the year. It was initiated by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had on June 20 announced the end to the practice.
“I was always supportive of the Darbar Move. The maharajas gave us three things which were in the interest of the public of both Kashmir and Jammu regions, and one of them was the Darbar Move,” Azad told reporters here.
He said the maharaja (Hari Singh) ensured protection of land and jobs from people who were not from the region.
“Today after so many years, we see the maharaja who used to be called a dictator was much better than the present government. The actions of the maharaja were for the welfare of the public, while the present government has taken away all the three things (Darbar Move, protection of land and jobs) from us,” he said, referring to the abrogation of Article 370.
On a series of public meetings he held across Jammu and Kashmir over the past two and a half months, the senior Congress leader said they had nothing to do with upcoming assembly elections.
“People are anguished as there is no business, no jobs, high prices and developmental works have come to standstill,” he said.
“I was of the opinion that people in cities are happy. Ragunath Bazar, City Chowk and Kanak Mandi (in Jammu) represents the pulse of the whole business community. Every shop I visited, I found that people are disappointed because business is down for the past five years,” Azad said.
“The overall situation in whole Jammu and Kashmir is very bad, and we are badly heading towards poverty,” he said.
High inflation and zero developmental work are the main contributors for the present situation, the Congress leader said.
He, however, expressed happiness over the growing political activity in the region. “Politicians lost contact with the public over the past two years (since August 2019). We started and others followed, which is a welcome development,” Azad said.
He avoided a direct answer on the draft report of the Delimitation Commission to enhance six assembly seats for Jammu and one in Kashmir, saying, “For me, Jammu and Kashmir is one, and so, I cannot take sides for one or the other region.