Politics Of Silence

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No released politician wants to talk about Article 370. All are waiting for the release of top leadership, reports Umar Mukhtar

Dr Farooq Abdullah with her wife and daughter after being released from detention. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Abdullah, 45, is a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) worker in Pulwama. He is associated with the party since its founding. In the last elections, he was very vibrant in mobilizing people to cast their votes. Now, he has confined himself to his house. He prefers to stay indoors. People chide him ‘nov taaze bouznaaw khencha (tell us something new). But Abdullah has nothing new in his basket.

Abdullah is disconnected from his party leadership since August 5 when Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and downgraded into two union territories. Before the abrogation, he was a sought after person in his locality.

Now Abdullah has nowhere to go and no one to meet. Most of his party leadership is behind the bars. No one is issuing any statement. Even those who were released earlier or who are free do not engage in political activities.

“People often question me about politics, what is going to happen, why no elections are happening,” he said.

Abdullah had attended the organizational meetings that resumed late in January after a pause of almost five months. “There is nothing concrete we do there, we meet, hug one another and talk about what we have suffered all these months.”

Like Abdullah, there are thousands of other workers who are directionless and have nothing to talk about. The leaders are silent and are stuck to one narrative, ‘until our top leadership is not  freed, we will not take part in any political activity.’

Another worker of the National Conference (NC) who wished not to be identified said if at least those who are free will talk, it will give them some sense of hope that things will get back on track, but there is none.

Nizam Din Bhat a senior PDP leader, is one among the few leaders who had an early release from the detention, says that first let everyone come out then only will they talk.

“A leader is always a leader,” Bhat said,  adding those who people think are free to do politics are not free in real sense. “Holding rallies on streets is not the only politics but silence in itself is politics.”

Firdous Tak is another leader of PDP who is out of jail. He says that PDP is the only party whose stand is clear and completely undiluted. “If you will see the Twitter handle of the JKPDP you will get to know about our stand.”

But when asked about the outreach to the masses and guiding them on the future course, he talks about the pulls and pressures. “There are a lot of pulls and pressures probably that can be the reason,” he said.

Tak also said that critical decisions are the prerogative of the top leadership only. “What next and the road map are decided by the political leadership. Every party has its structure. Right now the structure is in a shambles’’ Tak said. “take .

Tak admitted that no party activities are going on other than the activities at the headquarters and offices. “We call our zonal heads or blockheads regarding the party affairs. There is a disconnect with the workers right now.”

However, the NC leadership claims that they are in touch with the people. “We do meet people at our headquarters.  People come to us and discuss things. But there is unanimous agreement that until leaders are not released, the politics will be confined to the headquarter meetings,” NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar said.

Dar said the NC’s stand on the revocation of Article 370 is clear. “We are fighting it legally in the Supreme Court and it is in front of the people,” he said.

The NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah who was freed after seven and a half months of detention also decided to maintain silence. Soon after his release, Abdullah briefed the press. He said that he would not talk about politics unless Mehbooba Mufti and other political leaders, including his son Omar Abdullah, are released.

Recently the NC held a party convention in Hazratbal locality of Srinagar. It is said that the party decided to hold the event after consultations at the headquarters, where it was resolved that such events be held across Kashmir.

This particular event was held by the Women’s wing functionaries and the Youth National Conference. The speeches at the convention were apolitical.

Before the confinement of the leaders, on August 4, all Kashmiri parties had held a meeting at the Gupkar residence of Farooq Abdullah and decided to fight together ‘any assault on the identity’, that was the Gupkar Declaration.

The meeting was presided over by Dr Farooq Abdullah and attended by Mehbooba Mufti, President JKPDP, then Patron PDP Muzaffar Hussain Beg, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Sajad Gani Lone. Chairman JKPC, Imran Reza Ansari, Abdul Ghani Vakeel, Taj Mohiuddin, M Y Tarigami, Vice President JKNC Omar Abdullah, MPs of NC, Justice (retired) Hasnain Masoodi, Mohammad Akbar lone, provincial president JKNC Nasir Sogami, Shah Faesal,  Ali Mohammad Sagar, Muzaffar Shah ANC, Uzair Ronga PUF, Suhail Bukhari PDP.

A file photo of Political leaders at Gupkar residence of Farooq Abdullah in early August 2019.

It was unanimously resolved that all the parties would be united in their resolve to protect and defend identity, autonomy and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever.

The parties who participated in the meeting resolved to seek an audience with the President and Prime Minister of India and the leaders of other political parties to apprise them of the current situation and make an appeal to them to safeguard the legitimate interests of the people of the state concerning constitutional guarantees given to the state.

But the following day the bill for revocation of Article 370 was passed by the parliament with a majority.

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About Author

Umar Mukhtar is a Srinagar based journalist. He is covering human rights and the changing political landscape of the valley.

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