By Farooq Wani
Of late, certain mainstream Kashmiri politicians have been indulging in fanciful rhetoric about restoring Kashmiri pride and self-respect. However, as they have been consistently abandoned by these self-centred opportunists who have done nothing worthwhile to improve the quality of life of the masses, the locals aren’t impressed. Conversely, this gibberish has further strengthened the common belief that Kashmiri politicians only talk but take no action to fulfil their grand promises.
Despite the media exposing several acts of omission and commission on their part, these leaders seem to be least concerned and thereby forcing the public to adopt a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude. So, even though there are virtually no takers for the lofty assurances being made by likes of Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both these erstwhile chief ministers of J&K are once again pledging to rejig the Kashmiri political narrative by assurances to “rejuvenate” the dream of an “independent, self-representative state”, within the Indian Union.
Just last week, eighty-five-year-old Farooq Abdullah was re-elected unopposed as National Conference (NC) president. One would have been inclined to believe that being politically isolated for the last 3-4 years would have given him adequate time to introspect and acquire a fair degree of mellowness. Unfortunately, rather than acknowledging and welcoming the development-oriented initiatives of the current UT government, we see him all fire and brimstone- ‘warning’ both the government and the armed forces to back-off from the election process in J&K.
With general elections about 18 months away, Abdullah has fallen back to his old habit of making wild and provocative promises – like making New Delhi ‘apologise’ for what they did to J&K, as well as his assurance that “Democracy and Kashmiriyat will return”. In fact, Abdullah’s entire election stratagem is based on playing the emotional card by demanding restoration of J&K’s special status through revival of Articles 370 and 35-A, which is clearly an incredible pipe dream that will never see the light of day.
Abdullah’s admission that his party’s boycott of Panchayat and urban local body elections in 2018 being “a mistake”, and announcement that the NC will contest polls at all levels, was expected all along. There can be no two views that he should go ahead and contest elections, for that is what democracy is about. However, he should realise that since a large section of Kashmiris are enthused by the development and welfare-oriented schemes rolled after abrogation of Article 370, they are unlikely to blindly be lured by emotional appeals.
Falsely accusing the Indian Army’s alleged interference in the electoral process of 1996 serves no purpose for two reasons. One, to level this accusation after more than a quarter century is in itself laughable, and two, since the public which had participated in these very elections never complained, it’s obvious that Abdullah’s claim is completely devoid of any hard evidence. Furthermore, by making menacing statements like “there will be a storm that you (centre) will not be able to control,” it’s clear that the NC chief has a very serious misconception regarding his mass appeal.
The next question is, where does People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti fit in? Well, she isn’t too far behind Farooq Abdullah when it comes to indulging in political rhetoric. She has, however, taken a very different approach to developments in the UT by suggesting that a divide still exists among the people of J&K and the current ruling dispensation is cashing on this to “make hay while the sun shines”.
The PDP chief is famous for shooting her mouth off and creating a storm in a teacup. True to her nature, she identifies the BJP
For the commoner, being discriminatory in character, restoration of special status might now be looked at as a path to further alienation from the rest of India and deprive them of several benefits, which they will be reluctant to accept.
Mufti’s take that Kashmiri identity makes its people uniquely separate from other citizens of India is far removed from the ground realities. So, while her flawed mindset may not impress the masses, it has the potential to serve as a shot in the arm for those propagating a separatist agenda. As the people of Kashmir have already suffered immensely on account of this disruptive ideology for more than three decades, it’s in the overall interests of Kashmir is that the impractical and unachievable aim of secession be consigned to the dustbin of history and not be allowed to resurface.
Both Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti would do well to use their respective electoral platforms for taking the agenda of socio-economic development forward and to newer heights. By restricting their political agenda to the ‘resolution of the Kashmir issue’ only, they are just damaging their own political credibility as well as creating fear psychosis amongst the masses by conjuring a non-existent persecution complex in their minds.
Lastly, while both the NC and PDP chiefs may wax eloquent on their deep concern for the wellbeing of Kashmiris, they should not forget that neither is the public blind, nor mentally challenged. Hence, J&K People’s Conference (PC) president Sajjad Ghani Lone is bang-on when he says that both the Abdullahs and Muftis don’t have the moral right to talk about rigging, interference in elections or governance systems because the reality is that both have been the biggest benefactors of “rigged elections” and political manipulations of the past!
The author is Editor of Brighter Kashmir, Author, TV commentator, political analyst and columnist.
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