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Will J&K’s Omar Abdullah Deliver?

By Syed Junaid Hashmi

31 March, 2012

Land of political conspiracies, Jammu and Kashmir, is passing through a momentous phase of history. Man who promised to rewrite tattered pages of history, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has grown old in his young days. He now wears elegant eyeglasses and spots white hair. Wary of the controversy which growing beard would generate, Omar makes it a point to remain clean shaven.

Three years have passed in a jiffy. Omar’s kitty has 120 dead bodies, Shopian rape and murder mystery, sex allegations, failed AFSPA adventure, missing Sagheer report, half-baked SKEWPY, center’s refusal to return hydroelectric projects, dismal power scenario, NC worker’s mysterious death and now, multi-crore JKCA scam. Left are 33 months, and the hi-tech CM has nothing earth-shaking on the report card.

Assets cultivated by Omar include weak UPA government; clouded Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram, devastated Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, backscratcher Ghulam Nabi Azad and befuddled UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. These politically valued chattels are facing rough weather in New Delhi and if Anna Hazare does not take a softer line they are likely to bite dust in 2014.

Yet Omar relies on them profoundly. So much so that Union Home Secretary, an IAS officer, dared to breach the line. Innovation has taken a back seat. Omar has messed up with his tools. Either he is over-ambitious or politically juvenile, is how his grandfather’s comrades describes him. But they do not fail in equating Omar with Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. He is unlike Farooq Abdullah, say these elders now living in oblivion.

One ponders! If Omar is incarnation of Sheikh, then why has he failed to deliver? Answer lies in analyzing the situation critically. Omar took over the reigns of power with state vertically divided into Hindu Jammu and Muslim Kashmir. He drove straightway to the residence of ex-Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani wished Omar success. His swearing-in brought the news of the killing of deaf and dumb, mentally retarded person.

Then politically orchestrated events, which have always dominated discourse in Kashmir valley unfolded. Hapless seemed Omar and he looked towards New Delhi, got the advice of using brute force, applied the same, agitators and stone pelters yielded. Calm returned but at a cost. Omar failed the distressed commoners in Kashmir who had begun to trust his candid expression and apolitical language. Young saw hope in Omar and old a solace for their twilight days.

Their expectations had burgeoned until the day they saw a frail and crumbling Omar using lethal force at his command to silence anger and dissent. He talked tough. “If curfew is violated, don’t expect mercy’. The e-generation did not expect young Omar to resort to means of age-old and traditional politicians. They expected Omar to be their buddy in times of adversity and oppression. They saw in him hope of dreaming big.

However, Omar secluded and left the young in lurch. Brutal and wanton force brought back the memories of 90’s when routine of Kashmiris was to fetch dead bodies from the waters of fresh water lakes. Who killed them was never the query but the question was whose this body is and whether its claimants would turn up or not? Fear psychosis gripped young and old. Days of nomadic life were back.

FIRs became routine. PSA was slapped even on toddlers. One ponders who the advisors were. Police crushed the anger of youngsters with heavy boots. Young Omar failed to knock at the doors of new breed of Kashmir. Fearless, innovative, progressive, well-read and organised. None told Omar that they do not need SKEWPY but liberty of thought, speech and creativity. Loans may help a few but there are many more, who have not felt democracy even for a day. Their day starts with abuses. They have to bear it. They are not trusted. They are humiliated. Their life is both miserable and pathetic.

Even then, the police boots restored calm. Not the trust or faith or healing touch but fear bought calm. One needs not to elaborate for how long this calm will last. Vested interests are out to spoil the party. Being centre of international conspiracies, Kashmir is not going to stay silent. Omar must unpack the ‘hind side of this character’ before it is too late.

Rubbing salt over wounds would be catastrophic. Omar needs to read the nerve of his people. Knee jerk reactions have always brought doom. He has graduated in handling crisis situations during the last three years but he must learn from ex-Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed the art of winning hearts and bringing calm without the use of brute force. Mufti too fought militancy but ensured that people not only feel but also become part of change.

Few soothsayers have seemingly made Omar believe that media is his biggest enemy since unlike Mufti, he does not offer Wazwan. A rubbish statement. Use political and social skills to keep media close to your chest. You cannot buy pen by offering lucrative lunches. Omar must note. Besides Mufti, Omar should also look back at how another ex-Chief Minister built infrastructure overnight. He made people around him work while ensuring that none gets hurt with his words.

Omar must check why there is an impression of him being ‘arrogant and loner’. The word has spread far and wide. Both age and New Delhi are on his side. He has the artillery but now, he has to learn how to use it. The sooner the better. Otherwise, in the “iddhar-uddar argument” PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti is going to win.

Writer is a freelance Journalist; based in Jammu and can be reached at syedjunaidhashmi@gmail.com



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