April 2017 News

Farooq Abdullah's Pro-separatist Stand May Be A Poll Gimmick, But Has Captured Public Imagination

4 April 2017
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: The National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah, who went into a political oblivion briefly after his electoral defeat in 2014 Assembly elections, is back and seems to be making all the right noise these days. Farooq Abdullah is reshaping himself along the lines of separatists by making statements and raising issues that he has otherwise ridiculed all his life. A soft-separatist politics has been the plank of the People's Democratic Party who has based their political ideology on it. 'They did not pick up guns to become MLAs, MPs or ministers. Our generation was deceived, but the fight for our rights has been on since 1931,' Farooq Abdullah said recently while speaking at a workers convention in Srinagar, referring to the Kashmiri youth picking up guns against the Indian state. The way Farooq Abdullah talks these days in public interactions is seemingly close to the separatist rhetoric in Kashmir Valley. Only time will tell whether it is a change of heart in the National Conference leader that is prompting him to issue pro-separatist statements at the age of 79 or a mere election gimmick. But, Farooq Abdullah is taking NC back to its position which it held during plebiscite years from 1953 to 1971, and his utterances have caught the public imagination and raised eyebrows. 'I will vote for him. Not for his politics but for the sake of old relations,' Muhammad Saifullah Qureshi, 62, a resident of Idd-gah area of Srinagar told Firstpost. Qureshi is among the few people in capital Srinagar city, along with his few friends, who have continuously voted for the NC, despite the fact that majority of the residents often choose to boycott the polls. On Monday, Farooq Abdullah sought the help of pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami to fight and defeat Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which he said, represents 'decades of suppression' of Muslims across the country and openly advocated the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status since 1947. 'Today we all, including our brothers in Jamaat-e-Islami, have to come together to fight RSS or our identity and honour will be wiped out. I am just one person but I seek your support so that we can collectively fight against the RSS with honour and courage,' he said while addressing a public meeting in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir. But advocate Zahid Ali, the spokesperson of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir told Firstpost that they have neither supported any mainstream political party nor mobilised its cadre for anyone. 'We are not in the fray. He has his own views but we don't support anyone,' Ali said. But there have been allegations in the past that the PDP was receiving support from the Jamaat-e-Islami since 2002. 'Whatever I am saying, is it not the truth? Are young boys not getting killed because of the policies of the PDP-BJP government. I have not changed my heart. Whatever I say, I hear it and feel what is happening in my state,' Farooq Abdullah told Firstpost. 'If we have to ask for the help from an organisation which has been ideologically untouchable what is wrong with that? Did PDP not ally with RSS to spread its divisive agenda here,' he added. Recently, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, Farooq Abdullah looked anything but his former self. The portrayal of the tunnel as an alternative to a political initiative, said Farooq Abdullah, is yet another indication of a sustained effort to brush the political issue in Kashmir under the carpet. He also said that the recent spree of civilian killings and use of lethal force on protestors was an alarming and saddening trend that contradicted the promises and rhetoric of PDP before it came to power. 'What happened in Chadoora a few days ago is not an isolated incident but only a continuation of what we have witnessed since so many months. Rather than reaching out to the youth and understanding their angst and resentment, the government has unleashed brute force and repression on them,' the NC patron said. It looks like a change of heart for the former chief minister who is known to be an instant crowd puller. Farooq Abdullah has always enthused people here, young and old. Be it his image or him inheriting the nearly century-old political legacy of his father, the legendary Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. A political heavyweight, Farooq Abdullah is the joint candidate of the NC and the Indian National Congress against a comparatively lesser known Nazir Ahmad Khan of the state's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PC consists of 15 Assembly constituencies spanning over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal. Farooq Abdullah is a candidate for the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, after the sitting MP of PDP, who later joined the Congress, resigned from the seat. The Congress and NC are fighting the election together on the two seats. The bypolls in Srinagar and Anantnag Parliamentary constituencies are going to be held on 9 and 12 April, respectively, and a total of 15 candidates are in the fray.