YOU can tell from the speeches of Farooq Abdullah whether he is in power or not. Obviously, he is in the wilderness these days because the speeches he is making are bitter and blatantly against India to the integrity of which he has sworn loyalty as a Rajya Sabha member. His latest is the support to the Hurriyat, which advocates secession of Kashmir from country. In his speech, he says: “I want to tell the workers of National Conference not be out of this struggle. I warn you: We are a part of this struggle. We have fought every time for interests of this state.”
Farooq will be well advised to resign from the Rajya Sabha because he cannot be with India and the Hurriyat at the same time. In fact, I am shocked how a person who has been a Union Minister and Kashmir’s Chief Minister can make such a statement which runs counter to the constitution. Significantly, he addressed the gathering in Kashmiri. Farooq is a person who has no control over himself when he is angry. He can say anything. I recall that when once he addressed the Aligarh University, he spoke like a fundamentalist. I, sitting at the same dias, chided him. In my speech, I said that he reminded me of the Muslim League days before partition when Mohammad Ali Jinnah would say that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations.
A couple of weeks ago, Farooq wrote in a Srinagar journal that his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah would have been happy that the Kashmiri youth had picked up the gun to support their demand for independence. I knew the Sheikh well and I do not think that he would have made such an irresponsible statement. The problem with Farooq is that he wants to remain in headlines. To do so he would say anything. Is Farooq confident that what the Hurriyat is preaching is in interest of people in Kashmir, much less India. Has he ever weighed the repercussion of valley’s separation from rest of country? Kashmir is a land locked territory and does not have an easy success to any place except India.
The boys who are fighting against the Indian forces are very clear about what they desired. Only recently when I was in Srinagar, many among them met me. They said that they wanted the valley to be converted into an independent sovereign Islamic state. They did not favour integration with Pakistan. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a separatist Hurriyat leader does not represent them because he now wants Kashmir to be part of Pakistan, even at the expense of undoing the partition arrangement.
In fact, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh wanted to stay independent after the British quitted. But tribals and the irregular Pakistani forces (the regular ones also) marched from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir to Srinagar. They would have captured it if they had not stopped at Baramula to loot and plunder. At that time, Farooq Abdullah’s father, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, released from the jail on the insistence of then India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, organized the people’s militia during the Maharaja regime and stalled the forces marching towards Srinagar till regular Indian forces landed at the airport to push back the invaders to the territory, what is now known as PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir).
Those who are saying all the time that Kashmir is an integral part of India are wrong in the sense that the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys autonomy as enunciated in Article 370 which says that except the three subjects—foreign affairs, defence and communications—the other articles of the constitution that gave powers to the Central Government would not be applied to Jammu and Kashmir. The exception would be made only with the concurrence of the state’s assembly.
In other words, because of these constitutional provisions, the State of Jammu & Kashmir enjoyed the type of autonomy which other states do not have. Subsequently, the Sheikh Sahib had the state constituent assembly pass a resolution that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India irrevocably. Before doing so, he sent Sadiq Sahib, who became the state chief minister later, to Pakistan to assess what kind of polity Islamabad was going to pursue.
After hearing Sadiq’s view that Pakistan wanted to be an Islamic Republic, the Sheikh Sahib, a product of people’s struggle to obtain independence from the Maharaja and the British, took no time in joining India because he wanted the state to be pluralistic. A democratic India, where there would be religious freedom, was the obvious choice for him because Pakistan wanted to be an Islamic Republic.
With the passage of time, the Sheikh became the only liberal voice which could be heard clearly in the midst of challenges and counter-challenges by Hindus and Muslims. I recall when I was released from the Tihar Jail during the emergency my co-prisoners asked me to visit Srinagar and request the Sheikh to speak against emergency because he was respected all over country. He had no hesitation in issuing a statement that emergency had over stayed and should be withdrawn.
I wish Farooq had imbibed the qualities of Sheikh Sahib and guided New Delhi instead of flirting with the separatists to harm India’s cause. He is acceptable throughout the country even though he is found whimsical. He should think twice before he gives even indirect help to separatists. By announcing his support for the Hurriyat he has raised many questions in the minds of people, both in Kashmir and the rest of India. Farooq should realize that his constituency is the entire country. When he says anything which tells upon on India’s unity he confuses people because they see him on the side of India’s integrity, not its dismemberment.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.