HIGH & MIGHTY- J&K’S TOP 10

An Indian soldier walks past Kashmiris during a crackdown in Srinagar

Irrespective of the political make up of societies and nations, power is always centred among a few people, a few high and mighty. They are always a few, whether in a democracy, monarchy, socialist state or a dictatorship. So is the case with us. KASHMIR LIFE has come up with a list of our power elite, the Top 10, and though they are well known to the society, how and why they make to Top 10, we have tried to find and explain.

Soldier: The Perpetrator

He has no personal stakes. He is not even a xenophobic nationalist. He is just doing a job to earn a livelihood. Not worth a second look elsewhere, he is master of all that he surveys in the state. It is the context of Disturbed Areas Act along with Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives him, unbridled authority without any accountability.

Empowered by the system to deal with the situation, he enters houses, cordons off areas and burns up houses as thoughtlessly as lesser mortals light a matchstick. When he moves on the road, he has the right of way no matter what happens. He is on the scene of action, if not involved directly, for over 42,000 killed in the state since 1990. Besides being responsible for unaccounted number of people who have vanished in custody.

Global concerns over the non-existent civil liberty may have caused action in certain select cases, but never ever has a civil court tried the soldier. He is above the law. That ranks him as the most powerful person in J&K.

Omar Abdullah: The Executive

Omar Abdullah, for the moment, is not personally powerful. He is so because of the chair that he occupies which he owes to his mother. Ironically, even if not intentionally, his father’s larger than life presence in the thick of state politics weakens it. Omar needs a free hand to deliver. As head of the most sensitive state in India, he is the mascot of change in state’s oldest political party that has a huge historic baggage. While he is finding it difficult to create his own team, surrounded as he is by his father’s loyalists, Omar is taking most of the decisions at his own level. His plain-speaking attitude is his biggest asset.

His real source of power is his age. At 38, he has another 40 years more to go. In future, no matter where he is, he will hold a position of considerable clout, not just in J&K, but also in the country. He is the only politician of his stature in the country who personifies the melting pot secular ethos of India: Muslim father, Christian mother, and Sikh wife.

His brilliant passionate speech in parliament not only made Mrs Sonia Gandhi his admirer, but also showed his potential to be a leader of the Indian Muslims. As a union minister he has proved his mettle.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani: The Ideologue

Personally, individually and institutionally powerful, this septuagenarian leader of All Parties Hurriyat Conference has finally found his calling late in life. His writ runs large.

Geelani, now called “toath”, clearly is the most powerful voice in separatist camp. Once a legislator of the Jama’at-Islami, the unabashedly pro-Pakistan leader has emerged as the most hawkish separatist leader since the eruption of insurgency in the state.

His sauve and sober manner gives no indication of the uncompromising stand that he has taken on the resolution of the Kashmir issue. He chose to tread the lonely path even after losing active support from the Pakistani establishment. He is now seen as the lone warrior amongst the separatist leadership, never denounced or criticized by militants. Notwithstanding his faux paus – declaring himself as the sole leader of people — and major setback like the failure of election boycott call which is a moral defeat for the separatists, Geelani is a key player in the unpredictable political scenario of Kashmir.

Mufti Sayeed: The Strategist

Though a committed bridge player, Mufti plays politics like a game of chess. A shrewd politician and a sole voice against the mighty Sheikh Abdullah for most of his life, Mufti became relevant to Kashmir only after he founded PDP along with his rabble-rousing daughter Ms Mehbooba Mufti as its mascot. Within a few years he has succeeded in making PDP an alternative to NC and ruled for around three years with just 17 members.

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