Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/26/2020 11:31:13 PM

Farooq Abdullah’s words are significant, merit attention despite his diminishing credibility

Lies and denials can never pave the way for a better future. Only a realistic assessment can. It is for these reasons that former chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s recent interview to The Wire assumes significance. Making a departure from his usual flamboyance and loquaciousness, many of the assertions Farooq made are pretty much in sync with the ground reality in Jammu and Kashmir. That his words are looked upon with skepticism in the Valley and with a derision in rest of the country underscore the need for Farooq Abdullah to look inwards. He may have to grapple with the history of his inconsistency in politics and his inability to speak for the sufferings of Kashmiris when his party National Conference was in power in Jammu and Kashmir. It is reasonable for his critics to ask him why he chooses to now speak and speculations are already rife whether the content of his interview was guided by the need to salvage his completely decimated credibility. That, however, is a minor segment of the interview. The larger and key takeaways are some of the valid concerns he raised. His words need to be assessed on their own merit not on the basis of his past and without bringing any personal prejudices. While there is no barometer to check whether he genuinely felt what he was saying or was playing to the gallery, what he said in the interview on Wednesday deserves a serious and thoughtful engagement. The crux of his words highlights serious concerns. But woods may be missed for the tree if the issue to be deflected by either those who hate him for being a Kashmiri Muslim or by Kashmiris who consider him unreliable for acting as a stooge of the Indian government during his entire political career.
Farooq’s assertion that Kashmiris do not feel Indian enough and would today prefer to be ruled by China does not imply what he wishes upon Kashmir but only reflects his own understanding of the present situation, which is not off the mark. He has explicitly based his assertions on the sense of bitterness, betrayal and powerlessness among Kashmiris after August 5, 2019 when Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status and was divided and downgraded into two Union Territories. He talks about lack of democratic space, excessive militarisation, restrictions and lack of civil liberties and warns of the dangerous repercussions. He is correct in pointing out that while the Government of India is misleading the nation by creating a rosy picture about Kashmir and stalling any discussion on it, the nature and extent of bitterness and breaking of the emotional bond with India is deepening the crisis and creating a space for chaos, if not destruction. He has made serious allegations against the prime minister Narendra Modi for misleading him three days before last year’s political changes to Jammu and Kashmir and the Speaker for not allowing him to speak on a matter that is serious and needs immediate attention of the government and the country. The significant point being made is that the Indian government is misleading the nation about Kashmir, turning a blind eye to the rot within and neglecting the dangerous slide towards violence, insurgency and extreme hopelessness. Whether or not one agrees with the assessment of Farooq Abdullah, when a Member of the Parliament brings such important issues that concern the unity and integrity of the country, the most pragmatic thing is to allow a debate on that. The person in question and his motives may be relevant parts of the debate but pale into insignificance before the larger and more important aspect – the attention he draws towards the distressing situation in Kashmir and the increasing disillusionment even in Jammu and Ladakh. The focus needs to be the issue.