Malik Zahra Khalid Dr Aaliya Ahmed
Senior Assistant Professor, and Senior assistant professor in MERC,
Media Education Research Centre, Kashmir University
On the 111th birth anniversary of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah on the banks of Naseem Bagh, Dr Farooq Abdullah by his speech not only rattled Hurriet leadership but also many serious circles in New Delhi when he tried to resurrect his late father as the spearhead of separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq in his diabolic speech was at his crafty best when he tried to kill many political birds in one speech. Farooq mentioned the struggle of subjugated Kashmiris against the autocratic rule of Maharaja.
He mentioned the last word of a dying martyr of 1931 who told his father that he has given his blood, now it was the duty of Sheikh to carry on the struggle till its logical conclusion. Pointing to the grave of late Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq said he is listening in his sleep what I am saying and it is our responsibility to carry on the struggle till both parts of Kashmir achieve justice and fruits of the struggle.
By making his support to the joint resistance leadership of Kashmir public, in his speech Farooq said that Hurriet must understand that he along with his party was on their side while cautioning them to stand united against the enemies of Kashmir. In order to blunt the edge of criticism against him by the ultra- right wing parties like RSS and VHP, Farooq in his balancing act said that he was with Hurriet as long as they were on right path. In his loaded speech, he categorically told New Delhi that the times have gone when they used to silence the streets of Kashmir by resorting to excessive force. He instead told New Delhi to listen to the youth who are openly demanding complete freedom from the union of India.
He has stressed for dialogue with Pakistan and has recognized Hurriet as the genuine stake holders in any kind of dialogue for the final settlement of Kashmir dispute. Asking his workers to join the Hurriet programmes on the streets of Kashmir Farooq has surely rattled serious circles in New Delhi because they know what it means in the changing political landscape of Kashmir. Was this utterance similar to Farooq’s famous interview to a national newspaper in 1990 when he said, “I have asked my cadres to lie low, join the youth cross over and come back”? Is he trying to save his party cadres on the ground from the wrath of angry youth or is there any kind of intention of serious dimensions to join the bandwagon of separatism to get back public support.
Hailing Hurriet for forging unity, he urged them to remain steadfast in the current phase of the struggle and assured them of all support from his party cadre. Addressing his party workers he urged them to participate and support them in the present protests and said it was National Conference which has started the freedom struggle and said that it was their struggle. The support to current unrest and Hurriet provided a handle to Farooq’s detractors to pounce on him.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that Farooq Abdullah by his speech has proved that National Conference was behind the current unrest and Abdullah’s have engineered it to destabilize the present government. Calling Farooq an opportunist she said that when he was in power he advocated bombardment of Pakistan and gave statements that he will rot Hurriet leaders in jail. Even sharper came the criticism from BJP who urged the central and state governments to file FIR’s against Abdullah’s for their ‘anti-national’ activities. BJP said that Farooq and Omar Abdullah were batting for Pakistan and separatists and their political behavior has proved that they were hand in glove with Pakistan’s sinister establishment and other anti-national elements.
What are the factors behind Farooq Abdullah’s ‘devil may care attitude’? Has Farooq got senile who knows that it is his swan-song and is desperate to go down in history as a fighter and struggler to be identified with the people rather than with New Delhi? Has he really distanced himself from New Delhi and is not in a mood to play the ball the way he has played in 1986 and 1996? Is ill-fated accord of 1986 is being dubbed by many serious political analysts of Kashmir as the corner stone of spurt of militancy. Desperate for power, Farooq after a brief banishment of few years when his elected government was toppled in 1983, learnt a lesson that to survive in power one has to be on the right side of New Delhi. He did the Rajiv- Farooq accord and it marked the beginning of shrinking base of NC in Kashmir as this hand shake with unionist party like Congress could not go down with the people of Kashmir who always looked at National Conference as their voice against New Delhi.
In 1996 Farooq Abdullah after the initial outburst of asking for pre-1953 position before plunging into elections, fell into the trap of assurances again and came with a brute majority to head the J&K government. Farooq tried to convince New Delhi that it was the time to keep some political promises with people of Jammu and Kashmir to look back into the history to bring some prestige and political glory back. Frustrated Farooq finally went to assembly and passed famous autonomy resolution as he was enjoying two-thirds majority. The resolution was consigned to dust bin by the central government. Incidentally Atal Bihari Vajpayee was then Prime Minister and rest is history.
Farooq knows that the solution to the Kashmir problem is somewhere what he has been demanding and the four-point formula of former Pakistani president General Parvez Musharaf is very close to the borders of what he has been dishing out as a mutually accepted solution. The recent television interview by former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram acknowledging that Kashmir problem is because of broken promises and gave broader contours of the solution by saying that government of India should try to go back as much as it can till 1947. His interview was followed by a huge debate in the intellectual and political circles of New Delhi ignited mainly by current unrest and the quantum of protests with huge public participation.
This brief sketch of history is very important to understand the acrimony and bitterness between the Abdullah’s and Mufti’s in Kashmir politics. Farooq Abdullah feels that Mufti and his party PDP has been able to capture his strongholds in Kashmir valley only because they professed soft separatism, created cozy relationships with Jamat-i-Islami and other separatists groups and projected Abdullah’s as agents of New Delhi who were out to sell the prestige of Kashmir for power.
The current unrest of 2016 has given a window of opportunity to Abdullah’s to pay back Mufti’s in the same coin. Perhaps Farooq Abdullah has learned it the hard way to advocate separatism, to advocate talks with Hurriet and finally his open support to current protests and shut downs is a desperate attempt on his part to remain relevant in Kashmir politics. Many political observers believe that Farooq Abdullah has an eye on the by-election of Srinagar and Anantnag parliamentary segments which are likely to go to polls in the month of April, 2017. He wants to regain his control over these two parliamentary segments and consolidate National Conference in entire Kashmir valley as a party which has spearheaded Kashmir’s freedom struggle and will continue to be part of the struggle rather than to be seen as agents of New Delhi.