Dr Farooq Abdullah, the eternal prodigal, is back to Kashmir’s political scene, after a two year’s break following his defeat by PDP candidate Tariq Hameed Karra in 2014 Parliament polls. And he is attracting a lot of media attention if not public support. Speaking on the occasion of the 111th death anniversary of his legendary father Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, he made a common cause with Hurriyat, calling upon his cadre to join the ongoing movement. “I ask these Hurriyat leaders to unite. We are standing by your side at this hour. Don’t think of us as your adversaries. We are not your adversaries,” Abdullah said in his speech. He warned New Delhi that the oppression wouldn’t crush the ongoing struggle and the fire that has been lit up will continue to burn unless there is “justice”. This comes after Abdullah’s rebuff to New Delhi that “Azad Kashmir was not its father’s property”.
However, it is not the first time that Abdullah has taken recourse to a direct invocation of the separatism to curry favour with people of Kashmir. Harking back to NC’s age-old, albeit now credibility-challenged, slogans on Azadi and autonomy for Kashmir has been a favourite route to get back into public favour.
“I ask the workers of National Conference not to stay out of this (separatist) movement. I warn you. We are a part of this movement,” Abdullah roared.
This from a leader who chose to continue as NDA ally in 1999 when his autonomy resolution passed by a landslide majority in J&K House was summarily trashed by New Delhi. Ever since autonomy has remained a ritual war cry that is deceitfully resurrected around the time of polls and conveniently forgotten as the exercise ends.
Same is the case with AFSPA, the demand for whose revocation or at the least a phased withdrawal is now a boilerplate statement issued periodically, more for effect and as a reiteration of a stated party policy. Any action on the matter is aborted by a veto by Army which holds that Kashmir is dormant with militancy even when in material terms the violence in the state has declined drastically.
However, Abdullah’s statements are not generally about what they mean. They are about himself and who he is. He may be lacking political credibility in his core constituency but he continues to retain his position as the most familiar, if not the popular politician of the state. In his own characteristic way, he can capriciously drift in one direction, fast retrace his steps and then swerve to another direction. And get away with it. No wonder then that Abdullah continues to be a political enigma – his own version of an anti-political politician and a political anti-politician. He can wow and abuse his constituency in Kashmir with a characteristic ease and elan. He can be alternately pro and anti-New Delhi, traverse seamlessly the distance from allegiance to his religion to commitment to secularism to the praise of rightwing. And through it all he not only escapes unscathed but goes from strength to political strength.
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