Between ‘Compulsion’ and ‘helplessness’

Other CMs express helplessness when out of power, Omar did it when in the office


Chief Minister Omar Abdullah spoke his heart out when he cried his ‘helplessness’ in the legislative assembly last month. He talked about  ‘compulsions’ and compromises one has to make to cling on to power in a politically sensitive state like ours. Realizing what it takes to be a chief minister, Omar on 5th March expressed his despair in these words: ‘I am unable to understand why people are so desperate to take the chair I am holding. I am realizing my compulsions today. I am realizing how difficult it is to hold this chair and I am answerless’. (GK: 06 March, 2013)

            They say only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. In a state where the fog of political uncertainty grows denser and darker with every passing day – and where chief minister himself acknowledges the ‘reality of Kashmir issue, no one can deny’ on the floor of assembly (GK:26 March, 2013) – the pin-pricks of conscience become difficult to restrain. The simmering lava of abject surrender, at times tear apart the barriers and forces one to reveal: ‘Is this (killing of an innocent by army in Baramulla in last February) for what we are holding the national flag in our land? What should be my answer, when I am even unable to prosecute the army personnel who have carried out such killings’. (GK, 06 March)

Omar did not stop here. He further touched at the raw nerves of Delhi and made it clear that ‘Jammu and Kashmir is not an atoot ang (integral part) of India as is being harped on by various quarters in Delhi as the state’s accession was only on three subjects of communication-currency, defence and foreign affairs’. (GK, 26 March)

            We usually see politicians behaving in when they are deprived of power. But Omar did this in power and more-so with Congress (ruling at Delhi) in alliance. There was not much hue and cry on Omar’s remarks in New Delhi. That in itself reflects a tacit endorsement by New Delhi of such a cough-out of ‘mainstream’ leadership in Jammu and Kashmir. And realization of compulsions they face under the changing scenario.

            It is this compulsive ‘helplessness’ an elected executive chief assumes the chairmanship of Unified Headquarters but sans authority and command. He can’t rein in erring forces who go berserk nor can prosecute them. In the de facto power structure that has at its permanent core the army and the intelligence agencies he makes his suffocation known in his fruitless AFSPA revocation campaign. For the ‘relief’ of people he wants the draconian law to be done away with but had bear its retention. He wanted people like Liaqat Ali Shah to settle in their homeland after so much of suffering but has to see his authority eroded even from a pretty police cop outside the state. 

Yes the powers-that-be have set the ‘Lakashman rekhas’ for the rulers in Kashmir not to cross over. But there are areas they can exert their authority and make their writ to prevail. Public Safety Act is not centre’s creation. It is an enactment made by state itself. Initially it was claimed that act is against forest smugglers but after its enactment it was used to choke political dissident. Even Amnesty International called it as ‘blackest of black laws’ and pressed for its revocation. You can’t prosecute against army personnel but against paramilitary forces and police you certainly can. And as a matter of fact, even after revocation of AFSPA, if the state government retains PSA and relies on other undemocratic methods, there will be no perceptible change in the situation on the ground. Controlling and regulating people with black laws is incompatible with democracy.

            Omar was not wrong when it lashed Delhi for adopting ‘double-standards’ towards J&K in issues like Afzal Guru hanging, revocation of AFSPA and the recent controversial arrest of Syed Liaqat Ali Shah. But, as we mentioned in last week’s column, it was because of lack of resisting temptation of power by ‘mainstream’ Kashmir leadership for their political expediency that has made Delhi arrogant to do things the way she likes. Once you have put yourself on the slippery pole, the only thing that can be expected is a fall. 

            For the erosion in constitutional relationship, that at the time of accession promised “sovereignty” of state beyond three subjects (Omar talked about), New Delhi alone is not responsible. It did not roll tanks or artillery to rob state of its ‘individuality’, it used its political stooge for that purpose. Even for “legality” of accession it had its Trojan Horses ready. 

            From 1947 every one saddled with power tasted ‘helplessness’. But that ‘helplessness’ far from making amends, deprived us further of what he already had