In a major newspaper interview that became available on Monday, his first since cataclysmic constitutional changes were carried out in respect of J&K by the Narendra Modi government on August 5 last year, former J&K chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah has spoken of several key matters among them the possible re-working of his party’s “autonomy” platform, and his justified dismay (he called it “betrayal”) at the country’s
Opposition parties for backing the Modi government’s move to not just end J&K’s erstwhile autonomy but also for breaking up the former state into two Union Territories.
On both counts, it would appear that the NC leader has reflected deeply. Even so, we invite him to take heart from the fact that many entities and constituencies in the country, including important sections of the political class even if they are not currently substantial in parliamentary number terms, have an appreciation of the events of August 5 last that are not dissimilar to his own.
This is not unimportant as a fact unto itself. Since Mr Abdullah expresses the resolve to carry on a fight against the unconstitutional events “politically, democratically and legally”, he will find he will not be short of allies, especially on the political and intellectual side.
With the RSS-BJP cohorts renewing the catchy and populist slogan of the so-called full integration of J&K with the rest of India, their battle cry of 70 years has found a wider communal echo than when they were not in power.
Many smaller regional parties (though by no means all, as DMK and Trinamul Congress have shown) found this hard to resist on account of perceived electoral compulsions.
The much-weakened Congress, still BJP’s principal opponent, had a small group of waverers (and they appear to be playing a pro-BJP hand from within), but the party’s working committee has taken a healthy stand. Mr Abdullah would be wise to factor all of this in.
Clearly, at the present juncture, it would seem that mainstream parties in Kashmir might find the going tough after New Delhi’s failure to keep its side of the deal on Article 370 and 35-A, and its dishonouring of solemn commitments produced by the Constituent Assembly.
It is good Mr Abdullah is conscious of this. But the ebb and flow of life have a habit of throwing up surprises.
Even as mainstream parties in Kashmir seemed to be facing an existential crisis, their principal ideological opponent, the religious right strongly backed by Pakistan, has also been pushed on the back foot by the mysterious developments that have hit the camp led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Although there may be a certain “sentiment” in Kashmir (to which Mr Abdullah alludes), this is theoretically beyond the India-Pakistan binary. Politicians live in the real world.
The best thing that Mr Abdullah’s party can do to safeguard Kashmir’s interests and its own is to eschew insularity and seek to make common cause in the electoral arena with all who question the majoritarian basis advanced by the current dispensation in Delhi.