Srinagar: When the newly released former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking restoration of 4G network in Kashmir in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, many Kashmiris were furious. They saw the demand for 4G as unworthy of his stature and would rather have wanted him to seek restoration of Article 370 that granted J&K autonomy within Indian constitution.
“Mr Farooq you have been enough humiliated now and before. If you have any shame please keep quite now,” tweeted one Dr Yousuf Naik.
Another by one Kabir read: “Farooq Abdullah has come a long way from Azadi to autonomy and now 4G internet.
However, Abdullah alone wasn’t the target of ire on social media. Top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was also ruthlessly trolled for his 4G demand. People were angry that despite being a pro-freedom leader, he hadn’t issued a single statement to guide people as to their response in the wake of withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy in August last.
“It is better for him to be silent on every issue. He has lost his relevance to Kashmir cause,” wrote one Yunus Ali on Facebook, questioning why Mirwaiz was silent about Article 370.
In reply one Fahad Nisar wrote: “Talking about Article 370 means messing with the BJP. He can’t do that since the BJP won’t allow him and he doesn’t want to be behind bars”.
Demand for restoration of 4G has also been made by the leader of the newly floated Apni Party Altaf Bukhari and by Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattu. But the Centre has so far declined to do so. The J&K administration in its recent order to extend the 4G ban up to March 26 had stated that doing so was necessary “in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and for maintaining public order”.
But with the COVID-19 outbreak threatening to engulf Kashmir like other places of the country, the government was expected to review the ban. But it has chosen not to despite the senIor leaders across the Valley’s ideological divide demanding it. More so, Abdullah who is respected as the seniormost Kashmir leader. His demand for restoration of 4G stands out as he has been silent over the withdrawal of Article 370 since his release.
“While I believe a free and frank exchange of political views is essential so that we can take stock of the momentous changes J&K has seen after 5th August 2019 we are still some way away from an environment where such a political discourse will be possible,” Abdullah had said in a statement following his August 13 release. “This is especially so considering the number of people detained in August last year who remain in jails outside J&K”.
Mirwaiz, on the other hand, has issued no statement since August 5, something that has been attributed to his detention since. And in popular perception he is supposed to be still under house arresr. That is why his statement demanding 4G for J&K took people by surprise as it implied he had been freed.
Though 4G network is critical for people in Kashmir to stay informed about the developments related to Coronavirus and for students to study while they stay at home, people don’t expect leaders like Abdullah and Mirwaiz to demand it. They are expected to tell people how to respond to repeal of Article 370. But this is something both Abdullah and Mirwaiz have been conspicuously silent about. Hence the anger against them. More so, when Centre has ignored appeals of both the leaders including even that of Altaf Bukhari, apparently its own man.
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