Agonized MP from Kashmir Valley

By K.N. Pandita

People usually exonerate his eccentricities by saying in a lighter vein that Farooq Abdullah, the former chief minister of J&K and now an MP, has, a method in the madness. His supporters see no eccentricity in him while his detractors love it with hatred. Such is the colourfulness of his personality. He is not true when in power and he is totally untrue when out of power.

This notwithstanding, his 20th July address to party workers at party headquarters in Srinagar stands in direct contrast to his personality portrayed above. It is no hogwash or claptrap. He has, for once, poured out his mind believing that those he has castigated will take him seriously. He has projected New Delhi as the enemy of Kashmiris, conspiring to change the Muslim majority complexion of the valley and purporting suppression of the identity of its people. He accuses the Indian army of “killing Kashmiris with bullets” particularly his party men. A charge brought against the army is that it cast votes in Keran (Tithwal) sector. But he has never declined the security cover provided to him by the Indian state.

In short, he identifies New Delhi and particularly the NDA government as a sworn enemy of Kashmir. Interestingly, those who led an incursion into Kashmir in October 1947 and subsequent wars, the recent one being Kargil, and the ongoing proxy war since 1990, are not the enemies of the State from his standpoint.

Farooq’s frustration stems from two main sources. One is that he is out of power having tasted it for six long decades. The second is that he perceives the grand finale of the dynastic rule of the House of Sheikh Abdullah over Kashmir. Farooq is an intelligent man and can visualize what the future unfolds for the country and the State. However, a sceptic about the perpetuation of the dynastic rule not because of any grandiose conspiracy as he thinks against his House but because of the dynamics of contemporary history and elements aspiring to make space for themselves, Farooq in his frustration wants to change the course of history albeit unsuccessfully.

His premonition of the end of the dynastic rule will become deeper and more oppressive with the passage of time. The question is will the people of Kashmir and many among his own party cadres really believe that he has raised the alarm for real reasons? Perhaps not.

Democratic dispensation protects identities and social structures. Only a naïve will believe that a demographic change cannot be brought about even under a democratic dispensation. General Musharraf brought about such a change in Gilgit when Gilgit was under his jackboot. The population of Kashmir Valley was around 35 lakhs in 1947 and today, seven decades later, it is two and a half times more.The income per capita in Kashmir Valley is around Rs.9500/- whereas in Bihar and Odisha it is below Rs. 900/- The birth rate in Kashmir is the highest in the country according to official census records.

After sensitizing the youth of Kashmir to canard like the “threat to identity, conspiracy of changing demography, rescinding of constitutionally provided preferences” and other emotive falsehoods, Farooq wants the Kashmiri youth to take the front row in the organization. He has stepped into the shoes of the ISI.

Farooq is quick to evaluate the Kashmir situation in the context of regional developments. He is aware that Kashmir militancy is on the ebb, Pakistan is no more in a position to sustain an insurgency in Kashmir, the dynastic rule has been rejected by the Indian nation and Kashmiris are against it since long. Therefore, his last bid is to save, as long as he can, the influence of his party. Patronization by Congress for so many decades has finally come to nought and BJP is not going to pocket the blackmail. In the process, a new generation of Kashmiris likes to look at the situation from a broader perspective. All this disturbs Farooq and he is trying the save the sinking ship for which there is hardly any hope.

Farooq is not a fundamentalist. However, he has a clear understanding of the emotionalism of Kashmiris when it comes to religion and Kashmir as a predominantly Islamic state. In order to win the favour of the people, he must play the card of Islam and the threat to Islam from unknown sources. He adopts a dubious way of using religion for retrieving his political decline.

Our lament is that a man who is ultra-modern in his thinking, word and deed, should fail to read the writing on the wall and then try to maintain the dynastic rule by misleading and misusing the youth. He may be doing a service to his dynasty but he is doing a great disservice to his people and to the Kashmir community. He should demonstrate to the entire Muslim world that the strength of Islam is doubled when secular democracy is accepted and followed as the political arrangement of the state. We fail to understand why he is incapable of harnessing his liberalism for the enlightenment and emancipation of Islamic ummah. He is depriving the Muslim community not only in Kashmir but in the entire subcontinent of a unique opportunity of pulling it out of the morass of conservatism and exclusiveness.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University).

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