Omar govt adrift as fresh wave of violence hits Srinagar

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | Srinagar | Updated: Jul 10 2009, 04:30am hrs
Srinagar erupted again today after the the body of a missing youth, Asrar Mushtaq, was found with his throat slit, sparking angry protests on the streets with securitymen coming under attack and a police vehicle being torched.

Violent protests such as the one witnessed today are becoming more frequent, adding to the problems of Omar Abdullah who, when he took over as chief minister earlier this year, had raised hopes of giving J&K a politically serious and administratively accountable government. Six months and two major incidents in Shopian and Baramulla later, questions are now being asked about his governments efficiency.

Consider the following:

* The 37-year-old Abdullah had promised a generational shift. But today, there is no young face in the Cabinet he remains the youngest, grappling with 20 portfolios ranging from Home to Planning, Agriculture to Information Technology. Cabinet expansion has been repeatedly put on hold.

* The NC decision to field Abdullahs uncle Mustafa Kamal in the Hazratbal Assembly by-election has not gone down well since Kamal had been defeated earlier in Pattan. It has only strengthened criticism that the family comes first.

* Abdullah has continued with the administrative arrangement put in place during Governors rule. Questions were asked when senior officers failed to respond to P Chidambarams queries during a recent meeting.

* The promise of an open and transparent government remains just that. A 24/7 call centre in the CM office to provide greater public access is still to materialise. Nor has the promise of a stringent RTI been kept.

* Despite NCs promise, there has been no engagement with separatists.

* J-K Police is in a mess. The force has two DGPs, is ill-equipped and lacks training to make the shift from counter-insurgency to crowd-control. Stone-pelting protesters have been dealt with live ammunition, people being shot above the waist. The killing of four protesters in Baramulla is one such example.

* Abdullahs critics have been calling him a non-resident CM because of his frequent travel to New Delhi where his family lives. Sources said he has visited the Capital 20 times ever since he took charge.

* While Abdullah is said to get along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, there is tension between his party and the local Congress leadership. In fact, Congress members of the cabinet are split in two camps two top ministers are close to Saifuddin Soz while deputy chief minister Tara Chand and others are with Ghulam Nabi Azad.

* The CM has been seen as taking hasty decisions to outsmart the PDP. The recent move to withdraw CRPF from Baramulla and bring in the J-K Armed Police was taken in haste. Instead of acting against those responsible for the firing Baramulla DC Latief-u-Zaman Deva called it unwarranted, without provocation Abdullah decided to calm the situation by moving out the CRPF.

* The Shopian case two young women were raped and murdered, triggering protests across the Valley which subsided only after a probe began to identify the culprits showed his administration in poor light. Abdullah himself was misled when he was told that the two women had drowned though doctors had already established sexual assault. The government later suspended four police officials, but no one has tried to find out who misled the CM.