NC activists forced Farooq on autonomy vote
28 June 2000
The Asian Age
Srinagar: At a time when everybody believed that chief minister Farooq Abdullah had mellowed down his posture on autonomy, he dropped a bombshell by having the motion on restoration of autonomy passed by a majority vote in the legislature. For Farooq watchers, who had labelled the special Assembly session as yet another gimmick, it came as a surprise. “Prime minister” Farooq Abdullah (He will use this nomenclature if the resolution is accepted by the Centre) had the last laugh. Earlier, it seemed that Dr Abdullah had convened the session to build pressure on the Centre to scuttle the dialogue it intended to start with the Hurriyat leadership. During the entire debate, barring the last day when the motion was passed, he did not even hint at being serious about it. On the contrary, whenever any of his ministerial colleagues took a militant posture he showed them down. On the last day Dr Abdullah dropped enough hints that he may have the motion carried by the House when an alleged remark by his party member, Mohammad Shafi Bhat, irked the Opposition and the proceedings were disrupted. An agitated Farooq got up from his seat and lashed out at Mr Bhat for “frittering away the precious time on this most serious issue.” He threatened him with expulsion from the party if “you uttered a word now.” That was the first time that any positive hint had emanated from the chief minister about the passage of the motion. Apart from the last minute turnabout by Dr Abdullah which observers believe resulted due to pressure from his party members, the Assembly witnessed fiery speeches by his ministerial colleagues directing ire against New Delhi for, what they termed as, sowing and nurturing the seeds of mistrust among the people of the state by hatching conspiracies against and toppling elected governments in the state. The speeches of the ministers did not leave any doubt that they were using the opportunity to express their anger with the Centre for which perhaps they had not found any other forum. Their tone was bitter and at times it looked as if they were scoring points over each other in Delhi bashing. During this tirade, the security forces also had their share of criticism. Dr Abdullah’s younger brother and a minister in his Cabinet Mustafa Kamaal set the tone by accusing the Centre of “turning Kashmir into a place of intrigues” and “usurping the rights of the people.” “Time and again, our trust was betrayed and the wounds are now so deep that it is very difficult for us to believe the Central leadership unless they translate their promises into action,” Mr Kamaal said. Responding to the criticism that the restoration of autonomy was not going to end militancy, the minister came down heavily on armed forces and questioned their professionalism. He asked where from do militants sneak in with heavy arms. “The security forces are soft on militants but hard on National Conference activists and common man,” he alleged and said they had been reduced to a strong arm of the Central government for achieving its political ends. The minister of state for works, Mr Qamar Ali Akhoon hailing from Kargil, also criticised the armed forces and pooh-poohed the criticism that the restoration of autonomy would throw the state into disarray as the state government would not be able to handle the affairs now under the control of the Union government. He said at the time of accession “we had left only three subjects viz. defence, foreign affairs and communication with the Centre and everybody knows what havoc it had played with these.” He said the Kargil incursion and militants’ infiltration elsewhere without impunity speaks volumes about how best the Central government has taken care of this important subject. In the foreign affairs, the Kashmir issue is internationalised as never before, thanks to the mishandling of New Delhi, he said. Another Farooq minister Ali Mohammad Sagar criticised Union government for generating and sustaining mistrust among the people of the state. He said while the National Conference cadre is being killed for upholding the Indian interests, the Centre is “courting Hurriyat leaders” who are avowed enemies of the country’s solidarity. “Such actions of New Delhi over the years have created a crisis of confidence among the people of Kashmir,” he said. Mr Sagar lashed out at those doubting the nationalistic credentials of Dr Abdullah for asking for greater autonomy and said he was the tallest of many tall leaders of India. He said when everybody saw azadi round the corner, Dr Abdullah stood up and said he was not “going to sell dreams to the people which would not materialise.” Former minister and prominent Shia leader Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari accused the Centre of propping up first Jamat-e-Islami in early Seventies and now the Hurriyat to run down the popular leadership of Kashmir. He said: “We do not want to secede from India but your (Centre’s) behaviour will definitely take us away from it.” He said if Dr Abdullah says the same thing what Mr M. Karunanidhi, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu or Mr Jyoti Basu says, he is dubbed as an anti-national. Minister of state for home Mushtaq Ahmad Lone said that the state had acceded to India in 1947 “under compulsion of the situation brought about by the tribal raid on J&K,” The minister for health and Gujjar leader, Mian Altaf Ahmad, warned against letting down Dr Abdullah and said this would only weaken the state’s relations with the Centre.