NC HQ. KO Photo by Zaid Bin Shabir.
Amid the din over the reported political talks in Kashmir, a deafening silence in National Conference’s nerve centre perhaps underlines the political irony of the times.
OBLIVIOUS of the growing clamour over the resumption of “quiet talks” in Kashmir, septuagenarian Abdul Rehman has turned up for his routine outing in his party bastion which once was an epicenter of the political undercurrents in the valley but now elapsed beyond the belief of its votaries.
Rehman’s ‘long walk’ to the citadel passes through the bunkered entrance and a busy stretch hosting some struggling “showmen of Kashmir’s tragic drama” discussing small projects over the cup of tea.
“We would pity these artists till yesterday when our party headquarter was a bustling place,” Rehman says, as he steps inside Nawa-e-Subah, the official address of Kashmir’s grand old party, National Conference.
“But now, it’s a level playing field for us. That’s to say that we’ve become strugglers in our own style.”
A passage to the party office.
The old loyalist, whose tribe became “expandable” after New Delhi stripped the semiautonomous status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, doesn’t look keen on the reported dialogue process.
“Despite facing militant guns and slurs from the society, we were made captives for upholding the flag of India in Kashmir in recent past,” Rehman’s colleague, Sultan Bhat, said. “We were shown our worth and value. So, now, even if they promise us moon, it won’t undo the damage.”
Sulking and mostly silent, most of these Sheikh Abdullah-era political workers see the old script being followed in the name of the reported talks.
“Back in the day when our lion [Sheikh’s sobriquet given by his admirers] was roaring and was made captive for his people-centric politics, we faced the same treatment,” Bhat continues.
“To downsize our say and sway, proxies and parasites were floated time and again, but the good-old NC is still standing its ground and is seen as the only option for New Delhi to come out of the crisis it has created in Kashmir.”
However, despite this din over the political revival, the NC HQ has today become a jilted stone house—blanketed with silence, suspense and speculations.
To keep the senior disgruntled diehards in check and balance, the party’s new torchbearers advise them to maintain silence—especially in front of “prying scribe” and the new party entrants.
“This isn’t PDP,” a woman leader tells a bunch of old-timers with an aggressive tone. “This is Farooq Sahab’s party, where against any intimidation, a severe response is given.”
But this rebuke of sorts hardly stops the old guards from asserting that whatever the party elitists are vocalising, the ground layer is still being rendered aimless.
Another party patriot has his eyes ecstatic on the single party flag—bearing white plough on the red cloth—unfurling with large caches of dust fading the red from Sheikh’s “Naya Kashmir” symbol. On top of this, the mood inside NC’s citadel is overcoming the “impact of distress”.
“In the DDC election,” Rehman continues, as we sit to talk in the sunny courtyard where a cop keeps a hawkish gaze on the visitors, “our party was dethroned in Srinagar and Shopian by the BJP’s “B-Team” that isn’t even a year old. Those were the consequences of subduing your own party cadres.”
After the defeat, many party bigwigs had to taste their own medicine when NC picks drifted towards a new crusader for “Statehood” and shifted sides.
Before his voice buzzes up the deserted-view of party headquarters, Rehman is mainly quiet, self-possessed and staunchly reserve but as soon as he starts to spill few beans, his body becomes pinched and his voice turns fluent and aggressive, issuing the secret denunciations against his own party in a mixture of Kashmiri and a broken English.
“They’ve shattered Sheikh Sahab’s National Conference,” he says while his thumb skitters over his Samsung cellphone scanning through outrageous responses from a few party workers.
“If Sheikh Sahab would’ve thought about the grave repercussions before retaining the Dogra storm with his ‘Naya Kashmir’ slogans followed by a historical rift between him and the Indian Government, his two generations would’ve never got the opportunity of becoming the party supremos.”
Some political vigour was seen at the fag-end of year 2020, when the party patron hosted his archrivals inside Nawa-e-Subah, saying: “We will fight against the Indian Government.” Following that adrenaline-rush moment, Farooq Abdullah told his party workers that “these detentions, intimidation and political threats are a part of NC’s history”.
But now when the same group is visiting New Delhi for the reported talks, the party workers fear that their leadership might play according to the centre’s script.
“After all,” says a NC youth worker killing his time in the party chamber, “the lion’s party is now merely a desperate cat’s show.”
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