by Saima Bhat
As the five-month-long spell of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir suddenly found it melting under the growing warmth of the state’s two main regional parties and Congress, nobody could have guessed that a machine – of a size 10 times less than a deep freeze – would give cold shoulder to democracy. But, as they say, anything is possible in the world – more so in Kashmir.
While the story of fax would definitely add ink to the dark history of Delhi’s meddling with Kashmir, the undelivered fax did deliver a result though. A hitherto unseen bonhomie between two political rivals of the state bloomed within seconds – only if the Governor had known before!
Probably for the first time in contemporary history of Kashmir, the two main opposition unionists Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were having their LOL moments on social networking site Twitter. In millennial parlance, that’s called trolling. If not for the damn fax machine, the Governor would not have become a victim of online derision.
By Wednesday morning, the otherwise ignored corners in government offices – where these fax machines end up throwing out orders from the top – had become headlines across the globe. The letter of claim sent by ex-chief minister Mehbooba Mufti after a proposed deal with Congress and National Conference to the Governor Malik’s office had ended up as a joke.
Mufti’s term ended five months ago when her coalition partner BJP walked out from the alliance with her party. After her fax did not reach the governor, she reached out to her Twitter handle and wrote the fax didn’t go through and she wasn’t able to get him on the phone either. And then she tweeted her letter and wrote with it “Hope you see it” and also mentioned she was sending a mail.
Her opponent, Omar Abdullah, embarked on his tweeting spree and posted a GIF of a machine printing and dropping paper straight into a shredder. “Raj Bhavan Jammu fax machine at work,” Abdullah wrote in the caption. And Mufti, too, seemed to see the humour in it all. In a reply to Abdullah, she posted a picture of a skeleton, and wrote: “Meanwhile, those awaiting a response.”
But Mehbooba Mufti wasn’t the only one with grand plans. Sajad Lone, leader of the People’s Conference, also claimed support from a group of lawmakers. When he sent his letter of support from mid-air, while returning from London, his plan was also foiled by the fax machine. He tweeted a WhatsApp screenshot that showed he’d sent his own letter to Governor Malik’s PA. It got an “OK” in response. Also: Blue ticks!
As the machine came in between the formation of government, Omar Abdullah, wrote, “J&K Raj Bhavan needs a new fax machine urgently.” By the time, machine could have been fixed, it issued an order, “Dissolution of assembly.””PS – In today’s age of technology, it is very strange that the fax machine at HE Governor’s residence didn’t receive our fax but swiftly issued one regarding the assembly dissolution (sic),” Mehbooba tweeted along with a curious emoji.
But the panicked Governor, as per sources, “was already aware of the situation and had communicated to Delhi about the suspected political developments. It was after a wait of four hours that he got a message that he should dissolve the assembly.” He did and blamed it to the “extensive horse-trading”. Reportedly, insiders have claimed that the fax machine was working!
In a sarcastic remark, NC’s Omar said, “This fax machine is strange, just like the traffic management in Srinagar, one way only. This fax machine is a one-way fax, it has only outgoing and no incoming. This is a unique fax machine and investigation should be done on it.”
The curious case of fax not working took over the social media and became laughing stock and an important addition in the history of democracy. The silence of Governor Malik and unresponsive fax machine cut short the tenure of lawmakers by more than two years.
However, Governor Malik later came in support of Fax machine and said, “Fax isn’t an issue,” he had his own problems for the day to share. “It was Eid, offices are closed that day. My cook was on leave, let alone the person who handles fax.” Omar taunted him, saying, “We all celebrate the day perhaps the staff at the Governor’s House needs to pull up their socks then.”
After Governor’s food remarks, NC’s additional spokesperson, Sarah Hayat Shah tweeted, “I am sorry to hear about that. Staff from Jammu didn’t give you the food? Now I am wondering who drafted the ‘dissolution’ order? Who FAXED it? Sorry, FAX MACHINE wasn’t working. Whatsapp?”
But by then, the social media was taken by surprise to see the fault and fate of fax machine. “Now onwards 21st Nov will be celebrated as JK fax machine day,” wrote a follower of Omar Abdullah.
In response to the BJP’s Pakistan connection to the formation of the alliance, there was a tweet reading, “This fax machine has ‘ISI’ mark. Someone might have remote controlled it.”
One of the senior member of PDP, Naeem Akhtar, also joined the tweet spree and wrote, “Equipping Rajbhavn with a Fax Machine could be in the manifesto of our parties.”
One senior Kashmiri journalist, Sameer Bhat, based overseas, added the twist through legendary Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid’s way, writing: “City without a fax machine.”
While as Omar Abdullah, who is very choosy about his retweets, tweeted a local photojournalist Umar Ganie’s tweet who had written, “Grand Alliance: Hamare pass NC hai, PDP hai, Congress hai , tumhare pass kya hai?BJP: Hamare pass kharaab Fax machine hai.”
Meanwhile, the political upheaval witnessed months of ruffling beneath the surface. The formal announcement came about making of ‘Grand Alliance’ came out on Tuesday afternoon. All this came to be a day after senior PDP leader and MP from north Kashmir Muzaffar Beigh renewed his old ties with Sajad Lone led Peoples Conference and went to the extent of calling Lone as his ‘son’ and PC as his ‘home’. With his occasional communications to convey his displeasure, Beigh’s presser had an impact.
But sources reveal that senior PDP leader Altaf Bukhari‘s visit to posh Gupkar on Tuesday came after a month’s hard work of closed door deliberations. While the proposed grand alliance to thwart the plans of BJP and its Kashmir ally Sajad Lone’s “third front” was still in its infancy, the Governor’s fax machine played a spoil sport. May the fax be damned!