Omar's Popularity Nosedives After Shopian Protests

10 June 2009

New Delhi: The ongoing protests in Kashmir over the Shopian double rape and murder issue have left one person dead and many others injured. The protests in the Valley have also taken a toll Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's popularity, as well. From a mass welcome in January to soaring unpopularity in June, it has been a complete turnaround for the states youngest ever Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. For the past nine days Shopian has been rocked by violent protests over the rape and murder of two women allegedly by security men. When the protest erupted, Omar's inexperience showed. 'As I said the initial finding point in the direction that does not suggest either rape or murder,' Omar had said a few days ago. Omar's statement further provoked protests and strikes across the Valley and the state government instead of acting, allowed the situation to worsen, costing the fumbling Chief Minister his popularity. The state government’s inaction also allowed the Opposition Peoples Democratic Party and hardline faction of the Hurriyat to take advantage. The state government finally registered a rape and murder case on June 7. But by then it was already being accused of hiding facts and buying time by appointing an enquiry commission headed by a retired judge into the incident. Experts argue that it could be Omar's lack of administrative experience that allowed a crime whodunit to spiral out of control. 'You have a very young Chief Minister who is extremely well meaning but who is inexperienced. It's his first major challenge and I think he has botched it,' Kashmir affairs expert Prem Shankar Jha said. It is the first major crisis that Omar is facing after taking over as the Chief Minister and his challenge remains bridging the gap between promise and delivery.