The abject failure of the Omar Abdullah-led government in offering and ensuring a dignified life to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir is a strong indication that nothing has changed over the last six decades of conflict, Jehangir Ali reports.
“Pakistan has always said sign a no-war pact with us. Why is not our country accepting it? If India will delay it further, I shall have no hesitation in saying that our country is our enemy. Pakistan is not our enemy,”
Mustafa Kamal said while addressing NC workers at Kishtwar.
At the peak of summer agitation in Kashmir valley in 2010 against Indian rule which was sparked by the killing of an innocent teenager, Tufail Mattoo, in Srinagar by government forces, a helpless and agitated Omar Abdullah rushed to Delhi where he had a marathon meeting with India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Home Minister, P Chidambaram, to discuss the crisis and its political fallout on the situation in valley. Omar is reported to have passionately argued against the action of armed forces and, in the process of volatile discussions, volunteered to submit his resignation.
It took his father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and the well-wishers of National Conference in Delhi, to convince Omar to hold back his emotive posturing. Delhi was aware that his departure would lead to serious political crisis in the state and it gave assurance to Omar that there will be a gradual dwindling of powers of armed forces in Kashmir. The forces have acted as a state within the state in Kashmir valley over the last 23 years of conflict and very little has been done to make them accountable to the political leadership and their victims.
While 2011 and 2012 remained largely peaceful in Kashmir, it also brightened up the prospects of fulfilling the promises made to Omar by Delhi which led to a funnily sardonic verbal duel between the hawks in security paraphernalia in Delhi and Omar Abdullah over the revocation of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Newspapers were biggest source of amusement as a vociferous demand from Omar one day was met with equally vociferous snub from the guardians of defence paraphernalia in Delhi. The battle hasn’t ended so far but Omar apparently drew curtain over his demand for revocation of AFSPA recently when he said that armed forces were ‘scuttling’ the process of revocation.
So, if there was one thing that Omar Abdullah managed to pull off this year, it was his abject and repeated failure in implementing some of the key policy issues that lie at the heart of the conflict which has consumed lives of 80,000 people. When he pompously announced the policy of rehabilitation of youth who had crossed over for arms training in early 90’s, it was welcomed by people whose loved one wanted to return to Kashmir and start a new life. But the manner in which their return has been politicized and their acts criminalized by the state only goes on to show the disregard for the people of the valley who have been the victims of war in Kashmir. The humiliated families of the returned youth have been left at crossroads. Their children are refused admission by the educational institutes of the state. In one case, the Pakistani wife of a youth is thinking of ending her life. To provide them a dignified life, to ensure that they are not witch-hunted was the responsibility of the state which lured them to Kashmir.
Looking back, Omar’s tenure, particularly in the last year, was a perfect recipe for disaster for a politician. His nihilistic approach towards the policy issues which have always been dictated by Delhi were an indication that nothing has changed in Kashmir since the time Omar’s grandfather, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was jailed; and of how a politician in Kashmir living at the mercy of Delhi should be careful with his public posturing on issues which are beyond his mandate. Unlike Sheikh, Omar was not jailed for refusing to toe the dictates of Delhi. But the manner in which he was publicly snubbed did more damage to his image than the incarceration did to Sheikh.
On the domestic front, Omar could have scored at a perception level had he shown his intent to curtail the corruption prevailing in the state administration. By taking a strong line and sending a message that corruption was not tolerable, it would have done no harm to Omar to set the ball of change rolling. But politics feeds and survives on immorality of the men who associate themselves with the trade. Likewise, Omar’s saviours turned out to be his nemesis. While J&K’s education minister, Peerzada Sayeed, accused of aiding his foster son in Class 10 exams, was retained in the council of ministers, the all-powerful Taj Mohiuddin is likely to emerge taint-free out of the SAC inquiry he is facing in an alleged land-grab case.
But whether Omar Abdullah emerges taint-free must be left for historians to decide. When he came to power in 2009, many saw a la Barack Obama phenomenon taking place in Kashmir. Omar truly lived up to the name of president, albeit differently, by waging wars, not in distant lands against alien people, but against his own people. It was under his regime that the state normalised the process of torture, subjugation and mass killings of commoners and painted the political dissent in Kashmir valley with criminal, communal and sectarian colours. People may have a short memory but historians don’t!