It can be said that the Abdullahs and the Mufti have lost their sheen and appeal and that they have become irrelevant even in Kashmir for all practical purposes
The State of Jammu and Kashmir came into being in March 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar, signed between the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, and the British Indian Government. Kashmir became part of the Dogra Kingdom, and not the vice-versa and it must be underlined. The state consists of three politically, historically, geographically, culturally, linguistically and economically distinct regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The land area of Jammu is 26, 293 Sq. Km. (25.93%). The land area of Kashmir is 15, 953 sq. km. (15.73%). As for Ladakh, which was part of the mighty Dogra Kingdom of Jammu even before the Treaty of Amritsar, it’s land area is 59,146 sq. km. (58.3%).
Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on October 26, 1947, in terms of the constitutional law on the subject (read Indian Independence Act of 1947). The immediate fallout was the transfer of political power from Jammu to the Kashmir’s Sheikh Abdullah, who and whose Muslim Conference/National Conference (NC) had fought against the Jammu Dogra rule between 1932 and 1946 and tried their best to make common cause with Muslim Leaguers Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, but with no result as both hated Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah and his Kashmir-based coterie would always denounce the Dogras of Jammu and the Dogra Maharajas aliens and oppressors and wanted separation of Kashmir from Jammu. In 1946, they even launched “Quit Kashmir Movement”, saying they didn’t want any kind of truck with the “oppressors”, the “aggressors” and the “aliens”. The then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir had Sheikh Abdullah arrested and the latter came out of the jail only offered he tendered an unconditional apology for his anti-state activities.
That the NC is not a state-level party could be seen from the fact that it couldn’t find a single candidate in 2014 and 2019, who contest Lok Sabha election either in Jammu or Ladak
It was Prime Minister of India, JL Nehru, who conspired against the Dogras of Jammu to enable Kashmir to rule the state and convert Jammu and Ladakh into its two colonies and exploit them and their natural resources. Ever since then, Kashmir has been at the helm of affairs in the sensitive border state. Leave aside a few years when the state remained under the Governor’s Rule or the President’s Rule as is the case today.
The state has been under the Central rule since June 19, 2018, when the BJP withdrew its support to the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in a dramatic manner on the ground that she had become a threat to national security and that her policies were anti-Jammu and anti-Ladakh.
The transfer of political power from Jammu to Kashmir (read Kashmiri Muslims) in 1947 didn’t change the separatist mindset of Kashmiri leaders. The only difference has been that while they demanded separation of Kashmir from Jammu before 1947, they have been demanding separation of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir from India, saying the state is a Muslim-majority area and it’s a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Their demands range from the merger with Pakistan to complete independence to greater autonomy to self-rule. You may put in any amount of efforts to find a single leader in Kashmir who stands for India, Indian Constitution, Indian laws and Indian Army you will come out of the exercise minus everything. All hate India, Indian Constitution, barring Indian rupees and Article 35A and Article 370, which empowered them to convert Jammu and Kashmir into an Islamic State for all practical purposes. They also hate the idea of any non-Kashmiri thinking in terms of settling in Kashmir and enjoying any citizenship right there.
The attitude of the Kashmir-based leaders of the so-called mainstream Indian National Congress towards India is no different. You just can’t distinguish between the Kashmir-based Congress leaders like the JKPCC chief GA Mir, former JKPCC chief Saif-ud-Din Soz and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and the NC and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leaders, including Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, all former Chief Ministers. They speak the same language. They, like the Abdullahs, the Muftis and others in Kashmir, say that no power on earth can remove Article 35A and Article 370. They, like them, denounce Prime Minister Narendra Modi and condemn all his actions in Kashmir, including the imposition of ban on Jamaat-e-Islami and JKLF and his April 8, 2019 resolve to abrogate both Article 35A and Article 370.
The time has finally come to call the bluff of the Abdullahs and the Muftis and tell the nation, nay the whole world, that they are not state-level leaders; that they are not leaders even of the tiny Kashmir; and that they are leaders of only a few localities in the Valley.
That the NC is not a state-level party could be seen from the fact that it couldn’t find a single candidate in 2014 and 2019, who contest Lok Sabha election either in Jammu or Ladakh. In 2014, the NC supported both the Congress candidates in Jammu, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and both, lost the election to the BJP and suffered a humiliating defeat. And, there are reasons to believe that the Congress which was again supported by the NC in Jammu in the just-held general elections would meet the same fate on May 23, the day the election results will be out.
Not even one voter cast his/her vote in as many as 90 polling booths in the constituency from where NC president and 3-time Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was seeking people’s mandate to enter the Lok Sabha
The story of the PDP is no different. It did field its candidates in Jammu in 2014 to capture Lok Sabha seats from this province, but the Jammu electorate inflicted a crushing defeat on the PDP candidates. It didn’t field its candidate from the lone Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency in 2014. Similarly, it didn’t field even one candidate from any of the three Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Ladakh in 2019.
All this should call the bluff of the Abdullahs and the Mufti and establish that they have no or little-support-base left in Jammu and Ladakh, which constitute the state’s 84.27% land area.
And that the Abdullahs and the Mufti are not leaders even of Kashmir could be seen from what happened in the Kashmir’s Srinagar Lok Sabha Constituency on April 18. That day, 85.9% of the total eligible voters didn’t go out to cast their vote. Srinagar seat, which is spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal and which has 15 assembly segments, recorded only a paltry 14.01% voter turn out.
In other words, less than 1,80,000 voters out of a total of 12,95,304 voters exercised their right to vote. Kangan assembly segment recorded 23.5% voter turn out, Ganderbal 13.0%, Hazratbal 9.5%, Zadibal 8.3%, Eidgah 3.4%, Khanyar 9.1%, Habba Kadal 4.3%, Amira Kadal 4.9%, Sonawar 12.5%, Batamaloo 7.9%, Chadoora 9.9%, Budgam 18.8%, Beerwah 23.6%, Khan Sahib 24.3% and Chrar-e-Sharif 32.1%.
There were 12 candidates in the fray, including those belonging to the NC, the PDP and the Peoples Conference (PC) of Sajad Lone. That day, not even one voter cast his/her vote in as many as 90 polling booths in the constituency from where NC president and 3-time Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was seeking people’s mandate to enter the Lok Sabha. And such a low voter turn out despite the fact that the Abdullahs and the Mufti had left no stone unturned to motivate the Kashmiri Muslim voters to go out and cast their votes if they wanted to save Kashmir and protect its special status, Article 35A and Article 370.
All in all, it can be said that the Abdullahs and the Mufti have lost their sheen and appeal and that they have become irrelevant even in Kashmir for all practical purposes. And it augurs well for the future of the state and the nation as a whole.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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