Farooq Abdullah’s pre-election convulsion

Dr. Farooq Abdullah (Photo: PTI)

Sooner or later, elections to the legislative assembly will be held in J&K. Political parties have begun pre-election activities and mobilization of cadres. It is premature to speculate about the formation of an election coalition because there are not only so many parties and groups in the field but there are varying ideologies and perceptions as well. Given the history of J&K elections, it is difficult to predict the behaviour of the impending political process.

However, a few days ago NC President Dr Farooq Abdullah announced that his party would fight elections jointly with PDP. The PDP Chairperson Mehbooba Mufti confirmed that her party had decided to fight elections jointly with NC.

Election alliances are nothing new to the history of elections in our country.  However, historically speaking, there was no love lost between the NC and PDP.  Some commentators even went to the extent of saying that the PDP was created to undo the dynastic hegemony of the NC and to snatch from its hands the monopoly of Kashmir politics.  Rivalry among political parties is a known phenomenon and rapprochement and reconciliation, too, are part of active and healthy politics.  When the Gupkar Alliance was formed, Dr Farooq retained bossing of the organization and the PDP chairperson was satisfied with playing the second fiddle.

After the fall of Mehbooba Mufti’s government, the PDP cadres began to thin out; it lost its shine. However, the Jamaat-e-Islami continued supporting it and she became the unconventional spokesperson of the Jama’at.  Open anti-India stance brought them together because both felt a threat looming large against the dynastic rule.

Dr Farooq has never been comfortable with the Jama’at.  His father Sheikh Sahib had mended the fence with the Jama’at during his second stint in the office (1975 to 1982) and had established a liaison with the Saudi monarchy, which was instrumental in bringing about a rapprochement between the NC and the Jama’at in Kashmir in the aftermath of the execution of Zulfikar Bhutto of Pakistan. True, Farooq Abdullah adjusted all the teachers of the Jamaat-e-Islami darsgahs (seminaries) into government service yet that did not mean that he had altogether abandoned the ideological difference between what he stood for and what the Jama’at pursued.  Farooq is the last to opt for Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. It is not for the love of India or democracy; it is because he knows what his fate will be.

Dr Farooq is a victim of his father’s dichotomy about J&K’s accession to the Indian Union in 1947. He is aware wherefrom the scourge of Theo-fascism visited Kashmir valley in 1990. But he deliberately underplays the history when he says that “in 1990 a wave came that was not ours but it came from somewhere else.” He was the then chief minister and he had a large intelligence establishment under his command. He knew Kashmiri Muslim boys were crossing over to PoK in hundreds, joining terrorist camps set up by Pakistan Army where Kashmiri youth were trained, brainwashed and sent back with arms and ammunition to derail peace in Kashmir. As chief minister of J&K, he had the constitutional obligation of gearing up all resources at his disposal to scuttle the mischief of Pakistan. He had the option of approaching the Union government with the SOS request to activate security establishment and stand up to the challenge thrown by the enemy.  We have no evidence of Farooq as chief minister approaching the Union Home Ministry throughout the summer of 1989 for reinforcement of security staff to face the threat. It was neither “a wave nor from somewhere” as he says. It was a calculated and well-planned Fascist attack aimed at the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir and derailment of a democratic dispensation. Dr Farooq remained a silent spectator.

Dr Farooq has begun his election campaign by addressing party gatherings. What is he talking to them about is what we would like to bring under a scanner?  He is fully conscious that the present days are neither of the 1980s nor 1990s nor is his audience what it was then. He is also conscious that the Kashmiri middle class is much more awakened today than it was two or three decades ago.  Therefore, he has changed the strategy of the election narrative.  He is taking recourse to chauvinism and talks of things like “the region at a crucial stage” or “our children, our identity and our historical uniqueness in throes of danger”. He talks of “forces inimical to our unique identity,” and “diktats undermining our constitutionally guaranteed rights”. Then he talks of the “destruction of rural economy and crushing of farm incomes and rural unemployment” etc.

These utterances give an impression that the State is under some repressive and tyrannical forces with an agenda of demolishing and destroying the state and its people. He wants to convey subtly that there is a deep conspiracy somewhere under the sky to see an end to Jammu and Kashmir.  Such irresponsible and emotive utterances are not expected from a person who has been the Chief Minister of the State for decades in the end, and also a Minister in the Union government and presently an MP. Having adorned all these high and respected positions offered to him by the Indian nation, these positions have given him a very deep and clear idea of the philosophy and administrative mechanism of the Indian Union and the broader Indian nation. If with all this fund of knowledge and experience he talks of forces inimical to his state and usurpation of the rights of the people, he has no right to continue as an MP and speak for the people of Kashmir. He should have quit the parliament long back. But he has not, and that speaks of his real intentions.

He started his election campaign by vitiating the minds of the youth against India, against the Indian administration and the Indian democratic dispensation. We clearly understand what he means by “our culture, our identity and our historical uniqueness in throes of danger”. Certainly his “our” does not constitute the people of the Jammu and Ladakh regions. He is specific about the people of Kashmir sans its ethnically cleansed Hindu population.

This is a subtle way of saying that the Islamic culture, Islamic identity and Islamic uniqueness of the people of the valley are faced with danger. Yes, of course, they are faced with dangers like the ones mentioned by Farooq. But who is at the root of the danger and where does the source of the danger lie?  What steps have Farooq and his team taken to forestall that danger? Give me a single occasion when Farooq or his Gupkar bandwagon travellers even once said publicly that the Theo-fascists raised and abetted in Pakistan and warmly received and supported by the local Kashmiri Muslims are the source of the scourge that has befallen Kashmir. Show me a single appeal made by Farooq and his fellow travellers who brought out a mass of two or three lakh Kashmiris on the streets to protest against the unleashing of Theo-fascist activities in Kashmir.  Farooq and other political entities pursuing his line of action had a good understanding among themselves to let terror and fundamentalist ideology thrive in Kashmir so that liberal, democratic and forward-looking elements are suppressed because they had been lately raising their voice against the dynastic rule.

And when he talks of identity and historic uniqueness, he means that the identity of Kashmiris made them slaves and underdogs of dynastic and hegemonic rule, which made them a captive of personality cult, which had mastered the art of bullying the naive Indian leadership by raising the slogan “ sandbox band karoge to bandooq uthaenge”.

The historical uniqueness which Farooq goes on trumpeting is that the Kashmiri Muslims do not consider Indian Muslims as part of the ummah but the Pakistani Muslims are. If Kashmiri Muslims had not stuck to fictional uniqueness, they would have thrown their lot with the 22 crores of Indian Muslims and sought the roadmap from the nationalist Muslim leadership on how they should steer through safe.

Alienating the Kashmiri Muslims further from India by playing the old card of victimhood is not what is in the interests of Dr Farooq or the Gupkar team or the people of Kashmir Valley. If these leaders have an open mind, they should try to find out the pain and suffering of their brethren on the other side of the LoC.  Kashmiris laugh under their sleeves when Farooq and other leaders talk of Kashmir victimhood. We do not mean to say that there is nothing more left to be done in Kashmir. No, that is not the right approach. But we expect a leader of Farooq’s stature to be honest to his conscience and along with enumerating the discrepancies, if any, also note the achievements made by the state in the last decade. The opposition does not mean animosity or malice, opposition does not mean butchering the truth and adorning the falsehood. Opposition means expressing through word and deed the responsibility of ameliorating the condition of the people and chartering the path of progress. There are clear historic realities that have to be accepted. Accession of the State can never be annulled,  Article 370 will never be revoked and democratic dispensation will never be replaced by any obscurantist dispensation. In preserving this status, militancy and Theo-fascism have to be eliminated.

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