‘Childish’ indeed

Omar would do good to himself by learning from the comparative record of his illustrious predecessors

Syed Ali Shah Geelani is not off the mark in characterising, as being ‘childish’, chief minister Omar Abdullah’s remark on the Hurriyat leader’s role in the state politics. Replying to questions by media persons on the re-opening of the state headquarters in Srinagar, on Monday, Omar had blamed Geelani for creating ‘trouble’ whenever restrictions on his movement were lifted. He justified continued confinement of Geelani on this ground. Such over-simplification of men and matters is a typical characteristic of our youthful chief minister’s public profile. It betrays lack of understanding or lack of seriousness, or both. If there in any logic in what Omar Abdullah says his government ought to account for its shabby performance even after the confinement of the ‘trouble maker’. Actually, the coalition government’s performance record over the past two ‘trouble-free’ years is in no way different from its record during 2010 when it was unable to control the mass anger or deal democratically with anti-establishment dissent. One need not go too far to find the truth.

Periodic assessment made known by various central government departments after monitoring on the ground makes a sad reading. Almost each and every organ of the state machinery has been found wanting. Liberal funds allocated to the state either remain unutilised or misused; targets are never achieved and almost every development project suffers from cost overrun and time delay. Whatever little is spent mostly goes into feeding corrupt ministers and corrupt officials. Every day one or the other scandal tumbles out of the government’s cupboard. None of these cases is followed by the concerned agencies because the chief minister has been dragging his feet over putting in place an effective mechanism to deal with corruption in public life.

It is an open secret that corruption thrives at higher levels of the government, not to speak of its being rampant down below. Added to that is the inefficiency of the administration. The ugly manner in which the show piece of the state’s summer capital, Lal Chowk, has been dealt with and defaced betrays utter lack of thinking. A few weeks ago all that was sought to be undone but only to be given up half way through, probably to mitigate self-inflicted embarrassment. This is a typical example of how this government acts without thinking. In a way, it exposes the childish behaviour at the top. Only a child would insist on disfiguring a place like Lal Chowk and then embark upon undoing it and leaving it half way through. The result is that the heart of Srinagar has become an eyesore, apart from causing obstruction in an area already notorious for traffic density.

Geelani or no Geelani, those whose lives are hit by such foolish acts of omission and commission in various spheres would necessarily come on to the streets. The situation is compounded by rampant injustice and unabated atrocities. That is what actually triggers the ‘trouble’ for which Omar Abdullah seeks to wrongly blame Geelani. If anything, the truth is that Geelani is guilty of swimming on the wave which by no means is his own creation. There is no evidence of Geelani having done or succeeded in bringing about an inconvenient situation for Omar Abdullah all by himself. More often than not, he has been gifted with such ‘opportunity’, mainly by an incompetent Establishment itself and rarely by the victims of such incompetence.

Omar ought to take a lesson from history and reform his mindset. For about a decadeand a half Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad did the same to Omar’s grandpa what the latter is doing today to Geelani: Confinement and suppression of voice. The gainer was the victim—Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. By mid-sixties, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq reversed this policy and restored Sheikh’s freedom of movement and freedom of expression. Gradually Sheikh’s separatist stance began to soften and eventually the Kashmir Accord of 1975 happened. While there is no comparison between Sheikh and Geelani, the analogy holds good in any case. It is for Omar to choose emulating between Bakhshi and Sadiq. The results are too obvious to miss in either case.