Citizens, Netizens and Omar

Naeem Akhtar
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s seat was never the most comfortable in the world. But ever since the third generation scion of Kashmir’s first family ascended the throne it has turned hot.
Omar Abdullah was projected at the national level as the final solution to the Kashmir problem. The pilot project to introduce a “young leadership” was launched from Kashmir on the strength of a state apparatus that has during the last six decades been perfected to have Delhi all the say in ensuring “democratically elected governments” in J&K. The senior Abdullah, Farooq was in the process sacrificed in what could now be called a staged encounter courtesy the electronic media.
It seems in the process even the grand old party of Kashmir is headed for oblivion.
That is the message from its one time bastion – Srinagar. The streets of the capital city that historically have been the lifeline of NC for eighty long years are virtually out of bounds for the eight MLAs and the MP who represent them in Assembly and Parliament. No other party has ever had an organisational structure in Srinagar barring the considerable pockets of influence for the Mirwaiz family. But NC had successfully turned the odd “bakra” constituency into an asset through astute management of friction in Srinagar to use it to its advantage elsewhere in Muslim dominated parts of the state.
Now is different. There has hardly been a full peaceful week on the streets of Srinagar in the past 18 months of the coalition government. The fabled political stronghold of NC has vanished completely to push Omar government into the lap of police and security forces. The usually poorer sections of youth are in the forefront of the demonstrations that have cost Omar not just his credibility and promise of better performance but many innocent lives as well. And the picture of a police state is complete.
 The countryside had severed its connection with the NC long time back and the plough was now seen more as a symbol of a wasted past than a promise for future.
 While the streets are up in arms, where does the so called elite sentiment lay? It should normally have been on the side of Omar for he essentially fits the image of elite, modern, tech savvy, holiday loving man devoted to his family and visibly so in spite of a brilliant media management. The national media especially the electronic image makers are still holding on to him as someone who finally would rid India of its Kashmir headache.
One measure of gauging that sentiment is the social networks like the twitter or the Facebook. Omar used to be a blogger before his chief ministerial assignment. He is on the Facebook though perhaps not active but commanding a large fan club.
But Facebook seems on fire against Omar Abdullah every time there is trouble in the state.
It is good education to be on the Facebook to know about the sentiment of our young, educated and upwardly mobile section of population which includes NRKs, professionals, students and writers. They are certainly on the same page as the stone pelters in Rajouri Kadal, Kawdara, Varmul, Sopur or Islamabad. That should be a cause for worry, not just for Omar but the entire political class.

(The author is chief spokesman of the PDP)

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