July 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Change of guard in Kashmir: the problem of promise and performance
Every discerning reader of the article “Change of guard in Kashmir” (June
28) by Hari Jaisingh could detect the lurking desire of the author to call a spade a spade, but then he elects to succumb to the gentlemanly art of euphemism in chronicling the history of political dexterity of survival in all season by the Abdullah family in the kaleidoscopic political history of Jammu & Kashmir. The history of Kashmir has been a tragedy of errors and blunders in which the first milestone was taking charge of the issue of accession of the state by Pandit Nehru from Sardar Patel, who had successfully integrated hundreds of princely states with India with clockwork precision by combining political finesse with administrative sternness. The second blunder was to call a midway halt to the Indian Army which was
bludgeoning the Pak invaders back into Pakistan. The crowning, which now appears irreversible, blunder was to take Kashmir to the UN and then put all eggs in the basket of Sheikh Abdullah expecting him to roar like a lion both nationally and internationally on Kashmir on behalf of India. After that there has been no looking back for the Abdullah family except for a brief interlude when the lion had to be caged to cut him down to size when it grew too big.
The history of Kashmir has been a tragedy of errors and blunders in which the first milestone was taking charge of the issue of accession of the state by Pandit Nehru from Sardar Patel, who had successfully integrated hundreds of princely states with India with clockwork precision by combining political finesse with administrative sternness.
The second blunder was to call a midway halt to the Indian Army which was bludgeoning the Pak invaders back into Pakistan. The crowning, which now appears irreversible, blunder was to take Kashmir to the UN and then put all eggs in the basket of Sheikh Abdullah expecting him to roar like a lion both nationally and internationally on Kashmir on behalf of India. After that there has been no looking back for the Abdullah family except for a brief interlude when the lion had to be caged to cut him down to size when it grew too big.
The Abdullah family absorbed all the best maxims from Machiavelli’s classic “Prince” and became the de facto royalty of Kashmir forcing the de jure royalty into voluntary exile down to Delhi which has now become virtually non-contextual to the Kashmir issue. The Abdullas successfully evolved a highly expedient lingua franca suitable to the needs and exigencies of Kashmir politics. They have always reserved the choicest diatribe against their bete noire Pakistan. At the time of elections in Kashmir, they play to the gallery by assuming the role of dissidents by wearing a frown on the face and with sneers and jeers, sometimes subtle but mostly blatant, in their utterances on the platform of autonomy without spelling out what more does it mean beyond the parameters of Article 370. They have so far invariably succeeded in coaxing, cajoling or even coercing the people to vote them to power. After mission Kashmir is successfully accomplished in the elections, they start speaking the language which is music to the ears of the political party in power at the Centre.
Now that the politics in India has generally come to be accepted as a professional or commercial pursuit of power and pelf: the people as a consequential corollary to this proposition have resigned themselves to the acceptance of phenomenon of dynastic succession in politics. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that Omar Abdullah has been publicly appointed the next successor of the Abdullah dynasty in the political fiefdom of Kashmir. There is no denying the fact that he has exhibited flashes of political maturity and competence in his short tenure in the Ministry of External Affairs, but unfortunately he has to conform to the moulded needs of his political constituency. As expected he has already voiced the usual grumblings of dissidence after polishing them to the new needs of sectarian politics. It is unfortunate that Omar, who has exhibited portents to be a long-distance runner in national politics, is being downgraded to be groomed for really races in Kashmir. But then the family plays its political games with cards held close to its chest.
At the end of the day, it is fact that the Abdullahs have been successful in creating a firm impression all around that they are the only effective and powerful catalytic agents for any acceptable political metamorphosis in Kashmir. So the family show goes on without any change in the script, which has been a boxoffice success since the day one.
R. C. KHANNA, Amritsar
Farooq’s outburst: Speaking at the “coronation” of his son Omar Abdullah, Dr Farooq Abdullah’s outburst against the Centre and his oft-repeated demand for autonomy was neither unexpected nor serious. It was more out of frustration for not being nominated as the NDA’s candidate for Vice-Presidentship of India or in Omar Abdullah’s words “not suitably rewarded for services rendered”.
Dr Abdullah is quite aware that political autonomy under the prevailing socio-political conditions will neither solve any of the basic problems faced by the people nor is it constitutionally possible at this juncture. But he had to project himself as the most sincere well-wisher of the masses.
VED GULIANI, Hisar
Rehabilitation work: Whereas Mr Hari Jaisingh has stressed the need for rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits and creating a right atmosphere for their dignified return to their ancestral homes, he has not mentioned anything about the Sikh minority despite the fact that Sikhs too have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the recent years. The Sikh migrants too should be rehabilitated like Kashmiri Pandits.
NARINDER SINGH, Chandigarh
Autonomy: The demand for greater autonomy means to allow the Abdullah family to do as it desires and take India for a ride because the Centre has been ruling J&K through the Abdullahs since Independence.
UMED SINGH GULIA, Gohana
Dynastic rule: Though Dr Farooq Abdullah has been considered the best bet for our country, the dynastic element coupled with authoritarian trends, rise of sycophancy & his challenging tone and tenor do not augur well for us. Look how he started harping on autonomy for J&K on the occasion of handing over the reins of the party to his son Omar.
All this is election stunt and an effort to play with the emotions of the people who have been clamouring for solving their basic problems. Instead the ruling elites continue to fleece & exploit the common man there. Demand for greater autonomy is a farce as it would lead to misuse of power by those at the helm of affairs. Already by giving the state special status under Article 370, we are paying a heavy price as it has stood in the way of its full integration with the rest of the country. How strange is that people from other states cannot purchase property there and if it had not been so, the complexion of J&K would have changed for the better. This is policy of appeasement on the part of our leaders.
K. L. BATRA, Yamunanagar
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