P Chidambaram

The dhoti-loving Tamil whose English isolated him from the crowd is once again proving — as why he was the most “upright” minister in Dr Manmohan Singh’s camp. His latest take on Afzal Guru only recreated his 2010 summer speech delivered in parliament, wherein he stressed that it was important to “win the hearts and minds” of Kashmiris.

But lately in Srinagar apart from Delhi, P Chidambaram managed to stir up a new commotion with his remarks. But that’s another part of the story that he made it amply clear that some views are called individualistic. But in a mad rush, even his party, Congress, reacted fiercely, distancing themselves from his remarks—that there were “grave doubts” about the extent of Afzal’s involvement in the Parliament attack.

Before his latest came, the prominent Tamil had managed to stir up hornet’s nest in India’s “temple of democracy”. In summer 2010, when forces were piling up bodies across Kashmir, Chidambaram as union Home Minister rose to speak in Rajya Sabha and stressed that it was important to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris.

While stating that JK had acceded to India in “unique circumstances”—and that the state has a “unique problem” and requires a “unique solution”, he said that Delhi was keen on fulfilling its promises, including on the controversial AFSPA and reduction of forces footprints in the state.

Palaniappan Chidambaram was a corporate lawyer before becoming an important member of the last Congress-led Union government. He has been the Finance Minister since May 2004, except for a three and a half year stint – beginning November 2008 – as Home Minister, in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. In April 2009, he was assaulted by a Sikh journalist, Jarnail Singh, during a press conference in Delhi on the issue of a “clean chit” to Jagdish Tytler – who was one of the accused in 1984 Sikh riots. Chidambaram returned as Finance Minister in July 2012, succeeding Pranab Mukherjee, who demitted office to become the President of India.

But moments after his remarks, BJP’s Subramanian Swamy termed it a “foolish” statement besides a pointer of Congress’ “completely collapsed” moral authority. In Kashmir, however, the mood was mixed. The dominant obviously was: wasn’t Chidambaram HM when Afzal Guru’s mercy plea was rejected by the previous UPA government in 2011?

Chidambaram’s latest seems to have only made his own wish expressed during that summer speech ‘doubtful’: I hope Kashmiris would again say that their destiny lies with India and want to be part of India.

– Riyaz Ul Khaliq


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