The One With No Title

With NC veteran leader Sheikh Nazir Ahmad laid to rest, Kashmir Life reproduces here a longish blog of his nephew and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Written on May 2008, that was peak of Omar’s blogging – a practice he later abandoned because of personal abuse, this unedited blog offers a first hand account of what Omar thought of Sheikh Nazir, and his own father and grand father

NC leaders paying respoect to Sheikh Nazir at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhawan Jammu
NC leaders paying obeisance to Sheikh Nazir at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhawan Jammu

This one has no title because its not a planned, thought out post. Its simply my reaction to some of the stuff that has been said. While I’m not aiming any shots at any of the people who have responded or posted messages on this blog as my mum always said “if the cap fits wear it”.

Lets start with Sheikh Abdullah – yes he is my grandfather and yes its difficult to be objective but even a blind man can see that he had great qualities. He never claimed to be perfect nor do we in the NC claim that he was. He was human and carried the baggage that any (or after reading this blog you’d have to say almost any) human being carried. That having been said he struggled for a cause and suffered himself. He went to jail, he spent time in exile, he was interrogated but he didn’t sit back and let others do the fighting for him. He didn’t hand over guns to poor Kashmiri boys and keep his own kids out of harms way. He didn’t shut down profitable business establishments through hartals and civil strikes while building his own big palaces.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Pic: Web
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

Sheikh Abdullah did what he thought was best for his people and the people responded in kind. Some will argue that his decision in 1947 was wrong – looking at the present state of Pakistan and the side of Kashmir with it, I can’t see how they can justify that argument. Was independence an option? Sure let’s ask the tibetans about how it is to survive as an independent country with China, India and Pakistan for neighbours. Lets ask Afghanistan what it is like to be a mountainous land locked country in the region with precious little natural wealth, or Nepal for that matter. It’s all very well to dream and base those dreams on theoretical models of self sufficiency looking at Switzerland and places like that but Kosovo would be a better long term model to look at. We had a cold war, we had two blocks and two choices – India or Pakistan.

Sheikh Abdullah signed an accord in 1975 and disbanded the Plebiscite front. Some will argue that this was a betrayal and they would not be completely wrong in as much as he settled without getting what he set out to get but look at the circumstances that prevailed at the time. We can’t take the luxury of looking at events in isolation and pass judgment. Yes, he signed an accord but look at what was happening around him – Pakistan had not only lost a war it had been dismembered, the Simla Agreement had been signed that promised to resolve the Kashmir issue and Indira Gandhi was being compared to Goddess Durga.

Under these circumstances Sheikh Abdullah felt that he had to get the best that he could for the people and the people agreed with him. Any Kashmir expert worth his or her salt will agree that the 1977 election was the freest and fairest election the state has ever seen and the people stood behind Sheikh Abdullah and continued to stand behind him till he was laid to rest. Has any leader in Kashmir had a funeral on the scale that Sheikh Abdullah had in 1982? I think not, that having been said those that are ideologically opposed to him will remain so – such is life.

Dr-Farooq-AbdullahMuch is said about my father and by the grace of God he’s still alive and kicking and doesn’t need me to set the record straight for him he does it for himself. Junaid mentioned that he danced when a Pakistani wicket fell. I wonder why the Pakistani wicket mattered so much because he dances whenever he watches a match and India takes a wicket. He makes no bones about where his loyalties lie and is not hypocritical about it. Time will tell how what he did, what he does and what he’ll do will be judged. Lets not be too quick to rush in and pass judgement ourselves as yet.

Politicians have let Kashmiris down – sure we have. But what of the engineers and officials who were hand in glove with us? What of those trusted individuals who on a meagre salary have built palaces and sent their children to the choicest colleges paying hundreds of thousands of rupees? Those that built roads that only existed on paper, ordered pipes that continue to rust decades later, drew salaries as doctors from the state while continuing to practice in the Gulf or UK – do they bear no responsibility for the suffering of the people? Two wrongs don’t make a right (another thing my mum always says) but then people living in glass houses should be very careful where they throw stones (yet another of mum’s gems). As a politician I have let the people of my state down but I had a lot of willing and able supporters along the way.

If I am a hypocrite because I draw my salary from the Parliament of India and I still criticise India for the excesses in my state – so be it. I’ll live with being a hypocrite because it’s better than living as a mute spectator. I live with it because I am equally critical of the excesses of the militants. If I am critical of India’s actions in Kashmir, I am critical of Pakistan’s as well. I do a job as a member of Parliament but I haven’t sold my soul. I don’t visit the Indian Home Ministry or the Pakistani High Commission (or in some cases both together) to collect my monthly dole.

Sheikh Nazir
Sheikh Nazir

But what of those who travel the world talking about the illegal nature of India’s occupation of Kashmir and do so on an INDIAN passport? These are people who feel so strongly about the disputed nature of Kashmir but will happily fill a landing card and mention citizenship of India. I have an uncle who more often than not I disagree with but I admire the conviction he has – he disagrees with what happened in 1947 and subsequent events and so refuses to carry a passport. He has never applied for one. For the longest time he never left the state and only travelled by road between Jammu and Srinagar because he refused to travel on ‘Indian Airlines’.

Coming to events of the last seventeen years I will only touch on a few things that come to mind because a lot of this blog is going to be taken up by this period so no point writing it all in one post. That the Indian security forces are guilty of some of the most horrible excesses is a given and I don’t dispute that. I don’t condone what was done and am a firm believer that the truth must emerge and the guilty must be punished. This must be done in a transparent manner. I have talked about the need for a truth and reconciliation commission and will write in greater detail about this in a subsequent post.

While agreeing that nothing can justify the extra-judicial killings, the rapes, the torture, I have to ask the question – was there any of this happening before militancy started in the late 80’s? Before some of you rush in and go for my jugular claiming that I am using militancy to justify these things let me make clear that I am NOT. NOTHING can justify what the people have had to go through but to suggest that the people of Kashmir have been subjugated and brutalized for six decades is to stretch things way too far.

I don’t recall crack downs and searches before 1990, as I don’t recall arrogant convoy commanders on our roads before that either. I recall wives of Indian Army officers teaching me in school. I recall going to the homes of school friends whose fathers were in the army and playing with other ‘C’ type kids all day.

Incidentally while it is always unfair to use broad strokes to paint everyone and catagorise then simplistically like one of us has done with his ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ groupings it was fun to see the reaction that ensued. The glass houses sprung to mind again.

Omar-AbdullahIts so easy to say that we’ll lay down our lives to bring Kashmiri pandits back to the valley and I appreciate the sentiment as I’m sure the Kashmiri Pandits reading it will. Pity that sentiment was missing when our mosques were being used to drive these people out. None of us was willing to stand up and be counted when it mattered. None of us grabbed the mikes in the mosques and said this is wrong and the Kashmiri Pandits had every right to continue living in the valley. Our educated, well to do relatives and neighbours were spewing venom twenty four hours a day and we were mute spectators either mute in agreement or mute in abject fear, more often than not it was muteness driven by fear because the guns turned against the Pandits found their target elsewhere as my party workers found, but mute none the less.

And talking about mosques – what a great symbol of mass uprising they proved to be. While I can’t claim to have lived through it I have enough friends who did and they tell me about the early 90’s where attendance was taken in mosques at prayer time. If one missed a prayer in the mosque the neighbourhood enforcement committee knocked on the door and sought an explanation, usually with a few gun men present to ensure the message was received loud and clear. People were forced out of their homes to participate in ‘mass uprisings’ against Indian “occupation” and the same enforcement committees went from door to door forcing people to march.

While I don’t deny that the overwhelming majority of people rose in anger in the early 90’s there are two sides to every story and we need to look at both or we risk losing our objectivity. Shop signs were painted green and white in Islamic colours and people were forced to set their watches to Pakistan standard time. As if these two things would make the dream of independence any easier to achieve – amazing how quickly peeople rediscovered the old colours when they could make a choice again.

This post has been a little more long winded than I had expected but then Omar Khayyam once said –

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

I’ve written as I felt and to be honest with you I’ve enjoyed writing every word of it.

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