National Conference muddying waters, serving separatists' cause
By Hari Om on March 11, 2013
Can any ruling party behave in the fashion the ruling National Conference (NC) behaved on February 21 and 22? The answer is an emphatic no because the ruling party is constitutionally, politically and morally bound to discharge its obligations towards the State and not do anything that muddies the Indian waters in Kashmir and directly and indirectly promotes the Pakistani anti-India agenda.
But here is a ruling party which is in power not on its own strength, which acted in a manner that should have been taken to task then and there by New Delhi to send a clear message that it will not tolerate any nonsense.
The Central Government again overlooked the NC onslaught on India and allowed it to go scot free, thus vindicating those who have come to believe that the Congress has converted India into a banana republic / soft state for vote-bank politics.
On February 21, three top NC leaders, including two MPs and one party additional secretary and the Chief Minister's uncle Mustafa Kamaal indulged in politics which had all the potential of arousing anti-India passions in the Kashmir Valley, where the otherwise totally exposed separatists had already tried their best to provoke common Kashmiris to come on to the streets and hold anti-India demonstrations but failed.
That day, NC MP Ghulam Nabi Rattanpuri handed over a seditious letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which, among other things, said, "If Kashmiris would be given a chance to decide their fate, they would opt for Azadi (freedom)."
He met with the Prime Minister during the joint session of Parliament in New Delhi and was reportedly carrying placards with slogans on it such as 'Remains of Muhammad Maqbool Bhat and Muhammad Afzal Guru should be returned to the people of Jammu & Kashmir for proper burial'. "I did not talk to the Prime Minister. I just handed over my letter to him," the NC MP reportedly said.
The same day, another NC MP Mehboob Beg met with Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and told him to hand over the body of Guru to his family.
"I met him (Shinde) in the central hall of the Parliament ahead of the President's address and during our discussion, I urged him that Government should return (Afzal's) body… This is the bare minimum that could be done," he was quoted as saying. "I told him that the secret hanging has shattered the fragile peace in the Valley and it could have long-term implications," he also reportedly told the Home Minister. "When State Government supports the family's demand, there should be no issue with the Centre. The way the execution was handled will only further alienation of Kashmir and keeping the family unaware about it didn't do any good," Beg also said, and added that "the NC President Farooq Abdullah also had a brief chat with the Home Minister" and that "I believe the same issue would have come for discussion."
The same day, NC additional general secretary and former Minister Mustafa Kamaal threatened New Delhi saying, "If Centre will not grant autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir, mark my words, in future it will be compelled to grant freedom to the State."
"If Government of India will show reluctance in granting autonomy to the state at this stage, a time will soon come when the country will be forced to leave Kashmir,"
he, in fact, said. "Times have changed now. Government of India can no longer throw our autonomy resolution into the dustbin. Our party is striving hard to get autonomy for the State as it is the genuine document of the people of Jammu & Kashmir which has the legal authenticity," he also said. Earlier, Kamaal had said that the "NC leadership believes that the revival of Plebiscite Front alone could help resolve the Kashmir issue".
It's not that Kamaal, Rattanpuri and Beg behaved in this fashion for the first time. They had been behaving like this since day one and brazenly expressing the NC's lack of confidence in India and the Indian Constitution. The important point is that all the three NC bigwigs threatened India on the same day. To say nothing of the meetings of NC working president Omar Abdullah with the Prime Minister on the same day and with the Home Minister the following day and NC president's meeting with the Home Minister on February 21.
There are reasons to believe that both the NC president and working president must have urged the Indian authorities to hand over the body of Guru to his family. After all, Omar Abdullah is on record having said that the hanging of Guru could adversely impact the psyche of the young Kashmiri generation and that it may identify itself with Guru. Besides, he has written a letter to the Government of India urging it to handover the body of Guru to his family.
All this indicates that the NC leadership is in confrontation mode. Indeed, it has crossed all the lines. It would be no exaggeration to say that it has crossed that line with a view to showing their solidarity with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his ilk and ensuring that it continues to maintain its hold over its otherwise fast-dwindling support-base in the Valley.
It also indicates their attempt to force their pernicious ideology down the throats of the people of Jammu, Ladakh, and other sections of society, including the displaced Kashmiri Hindus. Neither the people of these two regions nor the displaced Kashmiri Hindus have given the NC the mandate to speak on their behalf. They have nothing to do with the NC and other similar Valley-based outfits.
When will New Delhi rise to the occasion and stem the rot? The present dispensation cannot be depended on as it is very soft towards separatists, extremists and those demanding autonomy and self-rule (read quasi-independence or a step short of complete independence). In fact, there are elements in the establishment who have been extending them overt and covert support so that the Kashmir pot keeps boiling. Hence, only a new dispensation headed by a committed and strong person can stem the rot. One has to wait for a year or so.
The writer is the former Dean of Jammu University's Faculty of Social Science and Member, ICHR.