Omar Abdullah is not new to controversies and dichotomies. But lately when he tried a judgemental take on the civilian shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of Article 35-A hearing, skeletons in his political closet cry to fall out.
A former blogger baptised into politics by Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA-I regime found a bolt hole amid abusive trolling on twitter almost a decade back, where his high jinks made him a popular newsmaker. But lately, Omar Abdullah’s moral tweet ground renewed the public debate on the erstwhile hard-headed ruler’s political wisdom.
Even though it might read as a tongue-in-cheek comment, pointing to imagined contradictions in the stand, by going judgemental about one of the strictest civilian shutdowns in Kashmir’s recent history over the attempts of the Article 35-A abrogation, the third generation Abdullah conveniently overlooked the context behind the massive defiance.
And therefore these days, the former chief minister remains a funny story—if not a laughing stock—in Srinagar circles.
At a time when the entire Kashmir Valley, Pir Panjal, Chenab Valley, Kargil and parts of Jammu defended their “existence”, the eloquent Abdullah decided to turn cheeky: Those out to defend Section 35A tacitly accepting J&K’s future lies within Constitution.
In his effort to sound funny, and undo the political belief of the State Subject law defenders, he forgets that there comes a time in the history of societies, when even staunchest opponents come together to safeguard their collective interests.
But in his muse moment, Omar forgot his own multiple personality traits, his inherent dichotomies and contradictions exhibited throughout his political career to achieve different political desires and objectives. However, they never undid his political belief, and became his tacit acceptance on many things.
Today he maybe Kashmir’s grand old party National Conference’s poster boy, but as a rookie in 2000s, he wanted to crush the behemoth called Ikhwan — the renegade militia that reportedly set stage for 1996 elections and helped his father to become the chief minister. Even the ex-Ikhwani and now Congress MLA Usman Majeed makes no bones about it.
And then, years later, he showed his fiery side in Indian Parliament at the peak of Amarnath Land Agitation in 2008. But as a ‘promising and young’ chief minister of JK in 2009, he was accused of acting spineless on Asiya-Neelofar rape-murder case.
A year later, he presided over the street bloodbath.
Once that summer thawed, his regime rounded off young dissenters, like chicken from their coops. The notorious Public Safety Act that his grandfather had brought in against the jungle smugglers made a comeback in his rule.
His crusade on the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) died its own death. He played ignorant on Afzal Guru’s hanging in 2013, like his father did in case of Maqbool Bhat’s hanging in 1984. His power term was sealed in the devastating fall of 2014, when he vanished along with his courtiers, as floods struck the valley and caught his government napping.
Once done with his offensive rule, he was rebranded as a suave opposition leader, who had a gift of the glib.
His party loyalists defended his multiple sides as the sign of his germane politics. “Nothing personal about it,” one of Abdullah’s young guns defends his master as if those killed, tortured, slapped with the lawless PSA and dragged to dungeons during his regime were not concerns of the then chief minister.
As an opposition leader now, Omar minces no words. By questioning the united response from Kashmir on the State Subject Law, bringing the valley closer to the parts of Jammu and Ladakh, the National Conference’s vice president seems to make a case for himself, as 2020 is drawing closer.
But, as his critics argue, the man’s problem lies in his English worldview. Last time when he tried to implement something of that sort on the ground, it was lost in translation. His elusive Big Apple model for the Safa Kadal strip is yet to create a mini-New York out of downtown.
Amid all this, Omar couldn’t make himself believe that tweets don’t make one a true representative of people. And when there’s an existential crisis like an organised attack on Article 35-A and fears of Israeli-type settlements in JK, then even archrivals blur their hostility for the day and unite to fight for their case. Word had it that if a double Farooq accord could end the mindless Sher-Bakra divide, then a double Omar accord was possible as well.
But again, Omar Abdullah’s predicament lies in his tech-savvy opinionated nature, compelling him to take a moral high ground, like social media celebrities stretching possibilities for retweets.
And that comes from the man who as the chief minister set the precedence for many things in the valley: be it regular detentions, internet and cellular gag, ban on local channels and harshest clampdowns the place had seen.
Despite getting into damage control mode as an opposition leader, his past returned to haunt him when angry Kashmiris in America confronted him during his recent trip. But then, politics is known to offer an escape route for a thick-skinned tribe.
Now as he takes jibes at New Delhi for its Kashmir handling, or would corner the perished PDP-BJP government’s conduct till yesterday, Omar conveniently forgets that as a former regime man, for the observer it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.
But then, many say, he’s supposed to do his job as opposition leader as well. Although grilling the government is well within his mandate as a unionist leader, being articulate on the matters plaguing the valley since his grandfather’s emergence as head of the state makes him a fake fireman, who rather questions the flame-dousing process, than holding a pipe, and plays his part. Perhaps that’s what happens when one takes a high moral tweet ground.
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