Views about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are fairly polarised. On the one hand are the communal forces like the RSS and the BJP that support him completely (except of course for the happy factions within), on the other are the secularists who are demanding justice largely consisting of secular organisations and a few political parties.
But strangely enough there is a third constituency that has emerged over the years, and is pretty vocal in the power circles in Delhi. This “condemns” Modi’s role in the 2002 violence, but at the same time applauds him as a great administrator, an example of good governance, a man who has taken Gujarat into the new millennium and is synonymous with growth, development and success.
So while the first two are pretty standard and predictable in their reactions and behaviour patterns, this third constituency is busy confusing itself and others. It manifests itself in the strangest of places, starting a few years ago with the Planning Commission’s endorsement under the UPA government of Narendra Modi’s as an administrator. The ‘certificate’ evoked considerable criticism from the secularists, while the communal forces of course, picked it up as part of the general endorsement of Modi. Since then the constituency has gathered so much ground that those rubbing shoulders with the power elite in Delhi, tend to dispense these clean chits for Modi.
Kashmir politicians are clearly no exception with former chief minister and now National Conference President Farooq Abdullah setting the ball rolling. One does not know whether it is for publicity, or to please the communal and so called soft communal forces that are so influential and powerful in Delhi these days, or simply a belief in his own charm, but Farooq Abdullah provided quite a spectacle as he bent over backwards to “woo” Modi at glittering functions in Delhi in recent times. He broke his fast with Modi on the dias, he spoke of wanting to see “Allah” in Modi’s eyes, whatever that means but there was of course, not a word about the victims of the Gujarat violence and the dire need for Justice. After all it was after Gujarat that the National Conference partnered the NDA in government, although now Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah insists that this is a mistake he will never repeat again. But as we all know, there is a ‘”never” in politics, and once the Lakshman Rekha has been breached, it can be breached over and over again.
Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti also seems to have transgressed the purely secular line in her reference to Narendra Modi at the National integration Meet. This columnist has learnt that Mehbooba did not endorse the communal antecedents of Modi, but did refer positively to his supposedly prompt response in clearing a Muslim’s business proposal as an example of efficiency. This naivety, if it can be called that, is not expected from form the leader of opposition of a highly sensitive state, and a person who has now been a politician in her own right for years. After all a person who blocks justice, who denies the minorities their basic rights, who condones communal violence (he has still not apologised for it) cannot be a good administrator by any stretch of the imagination. And one would have expected a leader like Mehbooba Mufti to throw in her lot with the secular forces of this country, and denounced Modi for his deeds.
But having said this, the exchange of tweets between the two younger leaders of the NC and PDP dynasties is almost surreal. As if all the other problems have ceased to exist, as Omar Abdullah tries to score brownie points and Mehbooba Mufti responds in kind. One would have thought more of the two leaders—and in this case the chief minister who is caught in his personal wrangles at the moment—if the exchanges had been on issues giving Kashmiris sleepless nights. The arrests in Kishtwar, as clearly the police has been given a free hand and it needs to be checked and enquired into; the State Human Rights Commission report on mass graves, the entire issue needs a thorough investigation; the reckless use of the Public Safety Act all over the state with hundreds of innocent persons being at the receiving end. What is being done on all these issues, what is being done to give the young people some relief?
Lip service is paid now and again to issues of concern, but the political parties—government or opposition—are doing nothing on the ground to ensure action. Instead the pot is calling the kettle black, when actually the need of the hour is concerted action—unitedly where required—to address at least some of the concerns that are being bandied around for years. Release of political prisoners, withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, repeal of draconian laws like PSA etc have been agreed upon at various levels of government at both the centre and the state at different points of time, but nothing has been done. Lately noises from both Srinagar and New Delhi seemed to suggest that the Disturbed Areas Act could be withdrawn, as without it AFSPA becomes irrelevant. It seemed like a good solution to the face off between the Army and civil society on this issue, but needless to say nothing has been done since.
The governments have become so skilled at dragging their feet, that concrete action almost seems like betrayal of their “let us sleep over it” tactics.
So for the moment it would be best of the NC and PDP offspring stopped the tweeting, and tried to grapple with the harsh realities of Jammu and Kashmir with honesty, courage and sincerity. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is in government and must remember that at the worst, or should one say the best, of times.
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