Chopper Cropper

Chief minister Omar Abdullah must be immensely pleased with himself for besting Syed Ali Shah Geelani on his own turf with the helicopter offer to ascertain the truth of the Hurriyat (G) chief’s contention on the Amarnath Road. But that sadly does not resolve the myriad concerns issuing out of the massively expanded yatra in the Kashmir Himalayas. Howsoever strongly he might so wish, Mr. Abdullah’s brownie point neither addresses genuine disquiet on a number of crucial counts, nor absolves the government of the responsibility of being silent and inactive on that front. It is quite another matter that Mr. Geelani’s bravado serves no other purpose but to raise doubts about the veracity of his information over the construction of a road. Given the politics of grandstanding increasingly gaining ground in Kashmir, the separatist leader should have picked up the chopper gauntlet and nailed the chief minister for good – if his sources are unimpeachable. The possibility otherwise is a controversy – at the least – and a tussle between two unverified contentions, with each side exploiting the public’s gullibility, not to speak of preconceived positions, by making arguments and counter arguments in thin air. If Mr. Geelani is sure of his ground, he has a golden opportunity in the chopper offer to give a vivid, graphic and damning demonstration of the government’s – and Mr. Abdullah’s – equivocation. No political leader or system can escape the massive damage of such a blow. Unless politics has been further reduced to whipping up mass hysteria with nebulous claims, Mr Geelani appears to have been extremely considerate to the chief minister by offering him an escape route.

For his part, Mr. Abdullah needs to be reminded that the supposed road to the holy cave in only a small part of a far bigger issue, one that cannot be brushed under the carpet, or rather, scattered into the wind, by whirling chopper blades. The chief minister’s, and the government’s, lack of appreciation of the problem in its entirety has guilty roots in the National Conference which has bent over backwards in facilitating the formation of a shrine board that had every indication of becoming a runaway juggernaut; and being a silent spectator, if not an active collaborator, as the board went on burgeoning the yatra, and expanding its duration with no thought of the detrimental impact. The obtuse and opaque NC leadership obviously also had no clue of the sinister political agenda underlying the whole enterprise. Or, as its opponents are fond of saying, the NC leadership could not care less if Kashmir was parcelled out by bits and pieces so long as it enjoys the fishes and loaves of office. Mr. Abdullah has been at pains in referring to some 200-page document the government has filed in the Supreme Court in reply to its orders over the yatra. What the chief minister has been conspicuously silent about is what the document has to say about the environmental aspects of the inordinately-extended pilgrimage. What the chief minister has been silent about is whether he and his government have a stand at all with regard to the perils the ecologically fragile Himalayan zone has been put by the intrusion of hundreds of thousands of human beings for weeks on end. Giving Mr Geelani his comeuppance is not quite the same thing as protecting Kashmir’s ecology.

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