True Colours Of Omar Using anti-India rhetoric is a classical Abdullah family tactic
After few days of lull, Kashmir is again heating up. The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has raked up another set of controversy when he made a statement in state Assembly that Jammu and Kashmir has only acceded not merged with the Union of India and it should not be treated like any other Indian state. “We are not puppets”, Omar has said.
After months of allying with New Delhi, the statement was not much of surprise, going by the tradition of Abdullahs’ in the past, as how they change colours when situations go wrong for them. And Omar also made a comeback when he questioned the accession of Kashmir to India. A senior political commentator said, “This is a classical Abdullah family tactic; when they cannot manage the ground or are found lacking, they blame New Delhi.
There was a thunderous applause from separatists in Kashmir who also offered Omar to ride on their bus since he was endorsing their stand, questioning Kashmir’s accession to India, separatists have called it a “belated realisation of facts” by Abdullah junior. But, what made Omar ride anti-New Delhi posture shifting from long-adopted pro-India line on Kashmir. Analysts say, the political pressures, compulsions and moreover, threat from the main rival People’s Democratic Party, which is towing the soft line of separatism political policy, could be a significant reason. By using anti-India rhetoric, Omar wants to regain the lost ground by projecting that he is ready to make sacrifices for “Kashmir cause”.
But, would this sudden change of sentiment and criticism of those who say “Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India” that too on the floor of the Assembly make his dwindling political career? He was one of the most celebrated chief ministers when he took over the reigns in 2009, there was lot of optimism, as it was thought, he would offer something new politically as well as administratively. But, as the events have unfolded in the past 22 months, he has lost ground. One of the senior National Conference leaders having served with his father as minister for many years told this correspondent that Omar is trying to cover up his failures and regain the political space he has ceded to the separatists and the opposition. He has to own the responsibility of his failure.
While Omar has said that the current agitation in Kashmir has nothing to do with mis-governance, as had it been so, there would have not been peace in two other regions of Jammu and Kashmir—Jammu and Ladakh. Omar’s Assembly speech has not just found opposition from the BJP, which demanded his resignation, the Congress top command has also been perturbed though there has been no official reaction. But, sources have revealed that Omar’s statement—”It is easy to say that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and it sounds nice to the ears, but if there is no doubt in your minds and hearts on this account, why are you saying it time and again? We want a resolution of the K-issue as would be acceptable to the three regions of Jammu & Kashmir and also to the neighbouring country (Pakistan)”—has not go down well in Delhi. Congress has asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to keep his “political rhetoric” within constitutionally permissible limits, following his controversial remarks in the assembly on the state’s accession to the Indian Union.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said that all political parties—state or national—should exercise restraint and make statements responsibly. While replying to Opposition’s charges that Abdullah was trying to “internationalise the problem”, Tewari said that nothing should be done to vitiate the situation in Kashmir. The Congress spokesman, however, refused to clarify who he was referring to—BJP or Mr Abdullah. “Be it Mr Joshi (BJP leader Mr Murli Manohar Joshi) or anyone, statements regarding J&K should be dealt with responsibly,” he said. But it was clear the Congress was uneasy over the Chief Minister’s statement, as it may give the opposition ammunition to attack the government.
The UPA government obviously does not want to give US any pretext to make any remarks on the subject. Junior Abdullah’s linking of Kashmir to international dispute very close to the visit of President Barack Obama next month is obviously music to the ears of separatist leaders; they believe their stand is vindicated.
GAMES THE POLITICIANS PLAY
How politicians change their stand and say what best will fetch them votes, is a daily occurrence in our country. It has nothing to do with any religion or any specific political party. They are the best followers of the dictum of Lord Palmerston that “There are no permanent enemies or friends. There are only permanent interests.”
One can has no objection to politicians playing games for loaves and fishes, as they do all over the world, like changing their parties, making new allies, or quarrelling for the sake of getting elections tickets for their kith or kin, or their siblings. But, when such a game is carried to the ludicrous extent of selling the national interest or compromising on the integrity or sovereignty of the country, then it is time, for us, to wake up and take note of it.
As a Union Minister and State Chief Minister, he took an oath of loyalty to Indian Constitution. Now, in October, 2010, he changed his tune in the following words: “Ours is accession to India not merger. We have a special constitutional status, which should not be ignored.” He further added that Jammu and Kashmir was an outstanding issue between India and Pakistan, recognised as such by international community. He urged New Delhi to start a sustained ‘two-track dialogue’ with the neighbouring country and separatists to resolve the issue. Playing into the hands of the separatists, to whom his government has provided security, his statement was lapped up by them.
The former US president Ronald Regan had declared: “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us, no matter what we do; but I do believe in a fate that will fall on us, if we do nothing.” About politics he said; “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first, (The first profession, is widely acknowledged, to be prostitution). He obviously did not have Indian Politicians in mind, when making the above statement, comparing politicians to prostitutes; though it eminently fits some of them, apart from murder, perfidy, corruption and other mischiefs.
The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be oblivious of the fact that a day before his statement, Musharraf, the former military ruler of Pakistan, had admitted that Pakistan had trained underground terrorists, to fight in Kashmir. It is the first such admission by a former top leader of Pakistan.
He himself added that West (probably rightly in my view) considered Pakistan, a rogue state. The composition of terrorists in J&K continues to be dominated by foreigners. Of the 398 terrorists killed in 2008-09, 304 (76 per cent) were foreigners. In 2008, of the 237 terrorists killed 171 were foreigners and in 2009 of the 161 terrorists killed 133 were foreigners. We can see the results of this mischief that hardly a day passes, when there is no encounter and no seizure of deadly weapons. The Chief of the Army Staff has confirmed that 25 infiltration attempts have been made by the terrorists across the Line of Control in August and September, 2010, and about 40 terrorists have been killed by the security forces during the same period.
Those forgotten are the 3.70 lakhs Hindus and Sikhs, who have been forced to migrate due to the clear ethnic cleansing of Kashmir Valley. On March 18, 2010, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that about 550-575 terrorists were presently active in the state. The guns and slingshots used for pelting the stones serve the same purpose to prove that the government is powerless to deal with them. The Kashmir Chief Minister has stared speaking in the language of the separatists, who are the frontmen of Pakistan and their well-trained terrorists. The trouble with even mainline politicians is that even when in power, they speak a different language in Kashmir and different one when they are in Delhi.
At the best, Omar Abdulla can be treated to be speaking for the ethnically cleansed Valley and not for the two different regions of Jammu and Ladakh, where the terrorists and separatists have no base and no hold. Instead of sermonising India, and every time, coming up with new demands in the direction of appeasement of the terrorists, the Chief Minister should focus on governance and keeping his house, that is the Valley, in order.
There is no substitute for a good and a corruption-free governance. Some times ago, Transparency International, a Berlin-based international corruption watchdog, rated violence-hit Jammu and Kashmir as the second most corrupt state in India after Bihar. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also told the Assembly in October, 2010, in a written reply that two sitting cabinet ministers are among the 14 legislators being probed by the state’s Accountability Commission.
If further proof are needed, it can be seen in the observation of the Supreme Court of India. On October 10, 2010, it observed: “It is very unfortunate that there is no control over corruption in the country. There is rampant corruption… Nothing moves without money.” The people’s resentment against corruption and mal-administration has been encashed by the terrorists and separatists.
J&K received Rs 13,252 crore as grants from the centre in 2009-10. In comparison, the eight conflict-ridden north-eastern states received grants and loans worth Rs 29,084 crore from the centre in 2009-10. The real problem in Kashmir is of azadi from corruption and malpractices, and controlling the terrorism. In every society and state, there will always be disgruntled people. The solution in dealing with them lies in firmness of purpose, rather than succumbing at every step, and seeking alibis, as the present J&K government has done.
By Joginder Singh
The writer is former Director, CBI, India.
Meanwhile, sources have revealed that Congress leadership is in constant touch with behind the scene diplomacy with PDP leaders former Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, but before any decision on Omar is taken, it is important to put something
concrete on platter for Kashmiris.
Meanwhile, New Delhi has announced three panel interlocutors to hold talks with all shades of opinion including the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to bring peace in the state. They include noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Information Commissioner MM Ansari and noted academician Radha Kumar.
Home Minister P Chidambaram has said the three interlocutors are “very credible people” and they will begin work as early as possible. “We may add one more interlocutor later,” he said. The panel will cover views of all the three regions—Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir. But, the hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has already rejected the panel labelling it as a “futile exercise” while the moderate faction headed by Umer Farooq has said that they will discuss the matter before making a statement on it.
Geelani said no dialogue can be held for resolution of Kashmir issue unless Delhi accepts Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute, all political prisoners including those arrested for stone-pelting are released, withdrawal of armed forces from the state, putting an end to “human rights violations” and arresting the security personnel responsible for the civilian killings during the recent unrest in the Valley. Moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said that his faction of the amalgam will study the development and hold discussions with the members of the executive committee before making a statement on it.
Meanwhile, Kashmiris have been making a ferocious use of social networking sites as a major tool of political communication in Kashmir. Facebook is used to debate the weekly calendar of protests, discuss ways to hold Kashmiri leaders’ accountable and trade daily news updates, some of questionable reliability. One user sparked a debate about the role of Kashmiri intellectuals in the fight by posting a picture of the Palestinian-American literary theorist Edward Said symbolically throwing a stone near the Israel-Lebanon border. In Kashmir, many intellectuals do not openly identify with the struggle, though privately they may embrace it. Another user, whose Facebook name is “Kale Kharab,” a Kashmiri term for a hothead, recently posted methods to counter the effects of tear gas and administer first aid to a shooting victim. Another video of intense stone throwing by protesters, set to the everlast song “Stone in My Hand,” has become a hit with the demonstrators and made its shadowy creator known only as a computer engineer a revered figure among them.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are fast becoming the vehicles of protest in a cyberspace movement fuelled by rising public anger. Marketing and information technology experts estimate at least 40,000 Kashmiri residents are on Facebook. Mirroring the turmoil are online groups like the Anjuman-e-Himaayat-e-Sanbazaan-e-Kashmir (Association of Stone-Pelters of Kashmir), Koshur Mazloom (Helpless Kashmiri), Citizens of Kashmir, Bleeding Paradise, I Protest Against the Atrocities on Kashmiris, which have registered more than 1000 “likes” on popular social networking site Facebook while groups like Kashmir Cries and Kashmir Will Win have also cropped up and attracted an “average” following.
Meanwhile, Faizan Samad, an 18-year-old Class XII student, has become the first “virtual protestor” to be arrested by Kashmir Police. The police say they don’t want to prevent the protests in the virtual world, but it should not cross the line between “opinion” and “propaganda”. “Faizan Samad was arrested because he had posted a list with the names of police officers who belong to Kashmir on Facebook, which has serious consequences on their security,” said Inspector General of Police, Kashmir zone, SM Sahai. “As long as the protest is not to incite violence, it is fine. If it is an opinion that is put forth through Facebook, we would like to hear it. But if it (Facebook) is turned into a propaganda tool to incite violence, then we will take action,” said Sahai.
Police said they found Faizan’s address on his Facebook page itself. He was arrested a couple of days back. “He told us that another person, Omar, who identifies himself as Kashmiri Muslim on Facebook, told him to put out the list of officers on Facebook,” said an officer. “We are investigating the case”.
With Facebook becoming everyone’s favourite medium to reach out to the youth of Kashmir, the state police, too, have taken the same route to hit back. The Inspector General of police of Kashmir, SM Sahai, has created an account to know what the youth want and to address their grievances. Sahai wrote on his wall: “I believe that a lot of people think that I have opened this page to find out who all are protesting on Facebook. I don’t need to do that as I can find out in any case. The idea is to find out what we can do to change things, it is not easy either for us or for you. I sincerely hope it shall be taken in the right spirit.” He added: “Please post your grievances between 8 pm and 9 pm.” He has received over 300 grievances since he opened the account about a fortnight ago.
The officials working with telecom groups like BSNL and Tata Indicom say that there has been so much demand for internet connections that they have run out of equipment and another service provider Aircel is offering special schemes for internet connectivity. If the wounds heal and misunderstandings get clearer, no one should complain this new form of media networking.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Kashmir