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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2465

Omar Must Emphasise On Nationalistic Outlook

By J N Raina - Syndicate Features

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new…." Tennyson

A new wave of ‘political modernisation’ is discernible in Jammu and Kashmir. Omar Abdullah, grandson of legendary Kashmir leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, has emerged as a top banana in the volatile Northern state. He has taken over the reins of the state administration, heading the resurgent National Conference-Congress coalition, on the crest of a charged political scenario, following the Amarnath wave. We are now witnessing a generational change in Kashmir, for the first time in 75 years, since Sheikh Abdullah began his crusade against the autocratic Dogra regime.

Omar Abdullah (38) has earned the distinction of being India’s youngest Chief Minister. People, who have voted for peace, stability, economic development and democracy, will expectedly find in him a dynamic leader, imbued with a different outlook and an approach to various problems confronting the state. His line of action seems to be different than those of his predecessors, including his maverick father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, who took everything casually.

Omar’s cut out task is formidable. He has to pass through many hurdles and keep at bay not only the separatists, represented by two factions of the Hurriyat Conference—one led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the other by rambunctious Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Geelani—but also the ‘soft-separatist’ People’s Democratic Party (PDP) clan, led by Mufti Mohammad Sayed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. Omar’s opponents are crestfallen, but defiant. People have overwhelmingly voted for better governance, stability, modernization and democracy. They are fed up with Pakistan-sponsored militancy.

Omar has a different pedigree and does not seem to suffer from prejudiced notions as such. His mother Mollie Abdullah is a Christian. His Grandmother Akbar Jehan’s father, Michael Harry Nedous was a European hotelier. Omar was born in the United Kingdom on March 10, 1970. He studied in a missionary school in Srinagar and finally got a MBA from Scotland. He was the youngest minister at 29, in the Vajpayee cabinet as minister of state for Commerce and Industries in 1999. Later he was shifted to the External Affairs Ministry in 2001. His role has been generally praise-worthy. It was Begum Akbar Jehan who would support him in his political activities.

Soon after he was voted to power, Omar gave vent to his powerful feelings and announced that he wanted a coalition government, consisting of parties ‘committed to nationalistic outlook’. He made it known succinctly: “We cannot afford to have any experiments when expectations of people in Jammu and Kashmir are so high. We have to have a coalition government which can be stable, which consists of parties committed to nationalistic outlook”.

He is upbeat and has started discussing issues with separatists and others who have a different agenda. He has a different wavelength, with emphasis on nationalism rather than ‘Kashmir-centric’ polity. ‘No one has talked about nationalistic outlook but only on Kashmir-specific issues’, he said during and after the poll. He need not placate the separatists as the Mufti did. Omar must convince his detractors that Talibanisation of Kashmir will not be allowed. He must tell them to roll back madrassas, the breeding ground of terrorism, as in Pakistan.

PDP is quite upset with the NC-Cong alliance, fearing retribution. The Mufti made frantic efforts to wean away Congress from NC. He even offered Chiefministership to Ghulam Nabi Azad, his betenoir, for full six-year term and was ready to concede more. The Mufti wanted to further his party’s interests, and adopt a resolution, aimed at resolving the so-called Kashmir issue, outside the ambit of the Indian Constitution. But he has failed in his scheming. Last year he had supported an “Out-of-box” solution for Kashmir as was suggested by former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He had also advocated for floating Pakistan currency in Jammu and Kashmir, along with the Indian currency. But people could understand his game plan and prankish approach, because no one can dare to talk of resolving the Kashmir tangle outside the Constitution. It was this kind of stance which harmed him.

Poll results have changed the contours of mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir. Every segment of the society was involved in the hectic poll activity. Azad’s assertion that mandate was ‘fractured’ than that of the previous poll and that the ‘unfortunate mandate’ is not good for the people of the state is preposterous. His remark that the BJP has won 11 seats, but Jammu has lost is not only irksome but uncalled for.

The Mufti was highly disturbed over the stitching of the NC-Cong alliance, although the PDP-Cong combine if formed would have just been 38, against the NC-Cong alliance’s 45 in the 87-member House. This clearly exhibits his opportunistic politics and unfulfilled agenda of making Kashmir ‘green’, in alliance with the secessionists. Sonia Gandhi did best to avoid Mufti in government formation, as it would have led to horse-trading and political corruption. The former Chief Minister wanted to further his soft-separatist ideology, to the chagrin of the nationalists in Jammu and Ladakh.

I remember the day when Omar, then just 12, was roaming barefooted on Srinagar’s Maulana Azad Road, sucking his thumb. It was September, 1982, a few days before Sheikh Abdullah died. When a journalist friend of mine told him to go home as someone would ‘kidnap’ him, Omar just smiled and gesticulated with his thumb.

It is wrong to infer that the NC’s alliance with the BJP (when NDA was in power) had tarnished its face in the valley. Rather it was Sheikh Abdullah’s policy to align with any party at the Centre to avoid confrontation. Omar has been ill-advised that ‘his key goal should be to undo NC’s image of being a party that had bowed down to New Delhi’. It is absurd, as if Kashmir is a sovereign state. This is how the people are being misled.

Jammu and Kashmir has enough of autonomy, a separate flag, a separate Constitution et el. Any attempt to demand for more autonomy (greater autonomy as the proponents claim) will jeopardize relationship between Kashmir and the rest of the state. It will create regional imbalance. Two-month-long agitation in Jammu is an eye-opener. Kashmiris want a society free from corruption. What has the autonomy given to them? It is a weapon to play fraud with the masses and to hoodwink them.

If Omar has a proposal to set up a “ Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to investigate custodial killings, torture etc, he must also probe the circumstances which led to the genocide of five lakh Kashmiri Hindus and forced them to leave their ancestral land of birth. No government can survive if it continues to be Kashmir-specific.

Mufti’s healing touch policy for the militants has proved disastrous. Ultimately he had to bow out. Geelani must see the writing on the wall rather than create fresh trouble for Omar. The Hurriyat Conference has stirred up a hornet’s nest by declaring at a seminar, when Omar was being installed as Chief Minister that ‘elections were not a setback to the secessionist struggle’.

- Asian Tribune -

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