People who know Farooq Abdullah well call him an eccentric man. Even some of his senior party colleagues also profile him like that. The fact is that he has a method in madness. He never advocated Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan because he had learnt the lesson from his father who had personal experience of dealing with the Pakistanis. Moreover, Farooq has had a long interaction with the Pakistanis and particularly with the PoK diaspora in the UK.
This valuable fund of experience has taught him not even to think of Kashmir acceding to Pakistan. Apart from this, Farooq knows how inimical Pakistani ruling circles as well as the army echelons have been against his father. They hold him responsible for scuttling their scheme of grabbing Kashmir through the tribal attack in October 1947. When in October 1947 the frontier invaders captured Baramulla and took the Hindus as captives, they asked them to pray for their success in capturing Srinagar and Sheikh Abdullah was wanted by the Pir of Manki Sharif either alive or his head. This should give an idea of how the Sheikh was profiled to the invaders on the eve of their Kashmir incursion on 22 October 1947.
But the theory that the Sheikh accepted the accession of J&K to the Indian Union owing to the compatibility of ideology is blatant falsehood manufactured tirelessly by Nehru and his followers. Nehru was trying to convince the world that ideology, not religion was a cementing force. The Sheikh may have also said so indirectly in some of his speeches but never by conviction. In a letter to Pandit Kashyapa Bandhu, a Hindu member of the Executive Council of National Conference, the Sheikh said that he was first a Musulman and then a nationalist. This is true of many pseudo-nationalist Muslims of India. The Sheikh did not wait long to prove what he believed. In his interview with the representative of The Scotsman newspaper, the Sheikh made no bones about his intention to withdraw accession and declare Kashmir an independent Sultanate. The Sheikh had got the cue from none else but Nehru whose deportment reminded one of the colonialists or the Mughals.
Farooq Abdullah is of a different class. Compatibility of ideologies is not his cup of tea. He knows better than any Muslim leader in India that the Indian Muslims have the maximum freedom and access to rights than the Muslims anywhere in the world including the Islamic states like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Farooq Abdullah is fully aware of the potential which the Indian nation has for development in all walks of life provided an era of peace is given to it. He has not been only an elected chief minister of J&K but has also a minister of cabinet rank in the union cabinet of India.
Indian Union in general and the Congress government in particular, have shown Dr. Farooq the respect and favour he deserved. When his father Sheikh Abdullah was put under arrest for many years after being dismissed as the Prime Minister of J&K in 1953, Nehru, then the Prime Minister of India, issued instructions that his family was taken care of. Even a medical seat was reserved for Farooq in Jaipur Medical College. The Indian government broke the protocol and the President and Prime Minister; both arrived in Srinagar to attend the funeral of the Sheikh. An announcement came minutes after the burial that Farooq Abdullah would be stepping into the shoes of his late father.
Farooq had the full freedom of running the administration of the State as per his party’s policy. There was no interference from the Centre. But what was amiss was that Farooq like other political leaders of the valley failed to make the masses of the people walk behind him. Unfortunately, he chose to walk behind them. He was besieged by colleagues and associates who neither understood nor practised the significance of secular democracy as the cherished instrument of governance. Under the pressure of myopic and ambivalent seniors of the party, Farooq gave in to the rabid Jamaat-i-Islami of Kashmir which had a very strong constituency in Southern Kashmir. Farooq ordered the appointment of more than 2,500 teachers of the Jamaat seminaries (dargahs) as government teachers. This was how the communal teachings and agenda of the Jamaat were conveniently brought to the homes of Kashmiris.
Farooq, deviating from the path set forth by his father, began finding support from the Jamaat which had quietly become active and was pursuing its Kashmir mission. The Tableeghis assumed puritanical posture as a mask behind which they carried forth the Islamization agenda in Kashmir. They reached every village and town in the valley and established their cadres with the simple agenda of spreading orthodoxy without any hindrance.
The space was shrinking for the Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir. When Bhindranwale-led Khalistani agitation spread out in Punjab, Farooq Abdullah began hobnobbing with the Khalistani leadership. He paid several visits to Amritsar to establish contacts with the Khalistani Sikh leaders perhaps in the hope that a day would come when the Khalistanis would also support Kashmir’s separatism. Farooq resorted to criticizing the central government for its “wrong” Kashmir policy. He crossed all limits in heaping allegations on New Delhi.
Farooq’s role during the rise of the theo-fascist movement in Kashmir in the late 1980s is a sordid story. True to the core of the theory of “method in the madness” Farooq tried to run with the rabbit and hunt with the hound. He knew the consequences of rigging 1986-87 elections and covertly facilitated the departure of Mohammad Yusuf Shah, commonly known as Sayyid Salahu’d Din, now the head of Hizbul Mujahideen, a separatist organization operating in Kashmir. Yusuf Shah was accompanied by a large group of his close associates who established contacts with ISI after arriving in Muzaffarabad. About 60 to 70 of young Kashmiri Muslims brain-washed and trained in the terrorist activities at the terrorist camps in PoK/Waziristan, under the supervision of ISI and Pakistan Army officers, clandestinely returned to Kashmir. Since an FIR had been filed against them for violating the ceasefire line, they were prosecuted under the law. But suddenly in August 1990, Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of J&K ordered their unconditional release from the prison. They formed the core of terrorist groups who wrought havoc on the small religious minority of Kashmiri Pandits, about whom Farooq Abdullah says today that Kashmir is incomplete without the Pandits.
Terrorism erupted in Kashmir in January 1990. Farooq, then heading the coalition government with Congress, resigned and ran away to London to play golf and enjoy the easy life in Europe. Back home, the defenceless Kashmiri Pandits were left to the wolves to face genocide and finally the ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. Thousands of troops, trained and armed to the hilt remained confined within the four walls of Badami Bagh Cantonment of Srinagar. The then Home Minister, Mufti Saeed turned a blind eye to the pogrom let loose against the Pandits. In a bid to rationalize the freeing of jailed terrorist leaders, he planned a masterstroke of getting his daughter kidnapped by the terrorists and got her freed in an exchange for setting free the arrested terrorists.
When terrorism in Kashmir was partially controlled in 1996, Farooq Abdullah returned from his London resort and announced to fight the election for the assembly seat. The Congress government in New Delhi fully supported him. Again he came to power and again the old dramatics were resumed.
As a result of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A, the assembly stands dissolved and J&K has been turned into Union territory. Farooq has lost his standing and freedom to be the Sultan sitting atop Gupkar hillock. He is restive and makes his survival conditional to regaining power. He forged the Gupkar Alliance nicknamed as the roguish as Gupkar Gang, but it frittered away sooner than later.
Now recalling the Kisan agitation, he exhorts Kashmiris to make sacrifices to help him reclaim the Sheikhdom of Kashmir. Kashmiris know that the Kisan Andolan is only a mask worn by the Khalistanis and the funding in billions of rupees is coming from the Sikh separatists based in Italy, Canada, UK and the US. The Kisans, while on a dharna for more than a year, have been regularly receiving their quota of hard cash, liquor of the highest brand, Hyderabadi biryani, tons of dry fruit, and all means of entertainment. This is the “sacrifice” to which Farooq is alluding and this is the sacrifice he is suggesting the Kashmiris imitate and restore Article 370 and Art 35A together with the Kashmir Sheikhdom for Farooq Abdullah.