National Conference president, Srinagar MP and former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah is one of India's foremost politicians. He has few equals when it comes to drama and flair, but equally also an innate truthfulness, a readiness not to close the door on discussion, and a fundamental sense of Indianness in the best sense of the term, a quality to which he has alluded in an interview with Karan Thapar as “Gandhi’s India, not Modi’s India”, which sums up everything that is wrong today.
For these very reasons, we need to have the courage to heed Dr Abdullah’s sharply-etched words, although it is unlikely that our rulers will, afflicted as they are with inordinate self-importance. He warns us that emotionally it is over for India in Kashmir, although it may control the territory with a soldier toting an automatic rifle posted on every street of every city and every village. But for this, lakhs would have been on the road to protest the abrogation of Article 370, effected by the regime in August 2019.
Anyone acquainted with Kashmir will at once recognise the veracity in Dr Abdullah’s indictment that no one in Kashmir today wants to be called an Indian, and “some” may even welcome China, while a connection with Pakistan is not desired.
Since the focal and disintegrative narrative of the ruling BJP-RSS, in every sphere of life, is expressed in narrow, jingoistic terms — national versus anti-national — it should occasion little surprise if the Kashmir leader is set upon by the communal troll armies nurtured by the cohorts of the governing party, and by its dutiful followers in the media. Sadly for India, though, Dr Abdullah has underlined a home truth.
The reality in Kashmir today is exactly as he says it is. This is on account of the fact that after it ended Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy on the false pretext that this was encouraging terrorism and hindering development, the ruling dispensation put thousands in jail in Kashmir, including politicians of mainstream parties who waved the flag for India, unflinching in the face of terrorist attacks and assassination bids. There is no stabilising centre left in the Valley now, thanks to communal fanaticism being propagated, and this is a matter of the deepest worry.
Dr Abdullah’s answer to all of this is that he will fight “till my last breath” peacefully through the “Gupkar Declaration” which has brought together all mainline Kashmir parties, besides the Congress, the two communist parties, DMK and Trinamul Congress. The key to success lies in unity of these parties in the face of every contrived circumstance and aggression by the ruling party and Pakistan’s proxies in Kashmir, which practically have the same message of disaffection against Kashmir’s mainstream politics. This will be a challenging task.