On October 14, National Conference (NC) president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah convened an ‘important’ meeting of opposition parties at his Gupkar residence in Srinagar to discuss the prevailing situation in the state and chalk out a strategy aimed at to ending the over-100-day-long unrest in the valley. It was expected that Farooq Abdullah, who served the state as chief minister for three terms, would bring on board the people of all the three regions of the state to evolve some mechanism aimed at achieving the stated goal in a holistic manner, keeping into consideration the interests of the state and the vital national interest in the sensitive border region. However, it didn’t happen. What happened was to the contrary.
Jammu and Ladakh were conspicuous by their absence in the meeting. Obviously, Farooq Abdullah didn’t invite anyone from these two regions, not even those belonging to the parties whose leaders attended the much-hyped Srinagar meeting. Besides, he also ignored the peculiar demographic profile of the state. He ignored the fact that there were six million Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in the state, who are a little over 10 per cent less as compared to the Muslims. But more than that, the representatives of Shiite Muslims, who constitute almost 15 per cent of the state’s population and inhabit all the three regions of the state, were also conspicuous by their absence in the meeting.
The point is that the meeting was attended by 14 leaders, all from Kashmir and belonging to the same sect that has been ruling the state since 1947. These included Pradesh Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir; CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami; Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) president Ghulam Hassan Mir; People’s Democratic Front (PDF) chairman Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen; NC leaders, including party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, senior leaders Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Sharif-ud-din Shariq and spokesperson Junaid Mattu; and Congress leaders Taj Mohiuiddin, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Monga and Abdul Rashid Dar. The opposition parties’ meeting was chaired by Farooq Abdullah.
It is still not known what actually transpired during the meeting. What is known is what Farooq Abdullah told the waiting media persons after the end of the meeting. One, he said the non-resolution of Kashmir was the cause of terrorism. Two, he pitched for sustainable and meaningful dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat leaders, saying that the 1 March 2015 PDP-BJP agenda of alliance provided for that. Three, he urged the state government to release all political prisoners (read separatists and their supporters, including stone-throwers). Four, he demanded compensation for the losses the Kashmiri people suffered during all these days of unrest. And, five, he asked the authorities to postpone the examinations for classes 10th and 12th in Kashmir Valley.
Farooq Abdullah didn’t say a word against Pakistan and those who bloodied and convulsed the valley’s socio-political scene. As expected, the all-Kashmir meeting and what Farooq Abdullah said disturbed the people of Jammu and Ladakh and minorities. But what disturbed them all the more was his insensitive remark when he was asked what he thought about the 18 September Uri attack and the martyrdom of 19 Indian soldiers? He said the meeting was held to find ways and means to douse the fire in Kashmir and not to discuss Uri.
“We are here to find ways and means to douse fire in Kashmir and you (reporter) are talking about Uri. I have nothing to say about it,” he said (Greater Kashmir, Oct 14).
All that he said has become the talk of the town in Jammu for obvious reasons. The immediate fallout of the Srinagar meeting and what Farooq Abdullah said is one of disappointment and anger. It has further embittered the already rather bitter inter-regional relations and further widened the gulf between the majority community and the non-Muslim minorities.
Earlier on 12 October, NC working president, leader of opposition in the assembly and son of Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, took a line which he should not have, given the nature of the inter-regional relations. That day, the Union government took the decision under which Jammu was to get an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and Kashmir an out-campus; National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar was to get Rs 100 crore for its further modernisation and the state was to recieve an additional amount of Rs 50 crore, which would be spent on the construction of seven hostels for girl students, three each in Kashmir and Jammu and one at Leh in the Trans-Himalayan Ladakh region. As for the IIM, the Union government set apart an amount of Rs 61.90 crore, which would be spent within the next four years.
There was absolutely nothing in the decision that could provoke Omar Abdullah to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and accuse them of perpetrating injustice on Kashmir and giving a preferential and differential treatment to Jammu. The fact of the matter is that Kashmir got more than Rs 120 crore and Jammu about 82 crore. But more than that, the decision clearly said that there would an out-campus of IIM in Kashmir as well.
But Omar Abdullah, who remained chief minister of the state for a full term of six years and who had, like his father, repeatedly claimed that the NC was a state-level party, and not a sub-regional outfit, picked up only on the IIM announcement and ignored the rest. He unleashed a blistering attack both on the central government and the state government from far off London through a series of tweets. He termed as ‘blatant partisan politics’ the Union government’s decision to set up IIM in Jammu (Greater Kashmir, Oct 13).
If what Omar Abdullah said was not in good taste, as also not in the larger interest of Jammu and Kashmir, what Farooq Abdullah said only added fuel to the fire. The fact of the matter is that both gave a legitimate cause to the people of Jammu and Ladakh to beat the Kashmiri leadership from right and left.
This is not the way to keep Jammu and Kashmir intact. The state would wither away sooner than later in case the Kashmiri leadership continued to behave like this. It has to adopt state-centric, as opposed to Kashmir-centric, approach, if it really wished that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh remained a single political unit. It has to respect the sentiments of people of all the three regions of the state. There is no other way.
Hari Om Mahajan is former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jammu.
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