With an eye on upcoming LS polls an aging National Conference President Farooq Abdullah is once again talking about the relevance of separatist politics and need to engage the resistance camp. But many in the Valley see it as a move by the party to try and appease both the voters & separatists ahead of the polls

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|| ARIF GULZAR       

                The flamboyant National Conference President, Farooq Abdullah, has media chasing him these days for all wrong reasons. After his crushing defeat in 2014 Lok Sabah election from Srinagar, Farooq returned to Kashmir’s political scene in October this year. But it were his recent and controversial utterances on Kashmir issue and Indo-Pak relations, in the wake of the civilian uprising in the Valley, that have got him and the National Conference back in the media limelight. On December 5, on the 111th birth anniversary of the National Conference founder and his father, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Farooq, known for his smug repartees, spared none from the state government to New Delhi as he talked about the civilian killings during past five months, drawing applause from his supporters. Wearing traditional cloak (Pheran), Farooq then surprised the audience including senior party leaders by talking about Azadi and pledging support to Hurriyat leadership. “I am telling Hurriyat leaders to get united. We stand by your side and not against you. Take this movement forward. We are with you until you are in right direction,” he said as he warned his party workers to continue with their support to the ongoing movement, ‘tehreek’, spearheaded by the Hurriyat. “I warn you: Don’t give up your support to this movement” he said, this time his tone more energetic, drawing thunderous applause from the audience. Then, sharpening his attack on New Delhi and in an attempt to weave around the local sentiment about the summer unrest which consumed at least 96 civilian lives, Farooq said “no force can crush this movement”. “For past five months people have been fighting for their rights. The fire that is burning in Kashmir can’t be doused  until both the government of India and the state government do justice with people.

On the 111th birth anniversary of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, known for his smug repartees, spared none from state government to New Delhi as he talked about the civilian killings in Kashmir. He even surprised the audience including senior party leaders by talking about Azadi and pledging support to Hurriyat leadership

           The more you try to douse this fire, the higher the flames will rise,” said Farooq. This wasn’t the only time Farooq’s remarks generated debate, at least in the media. On November 25, addressing a function in Chenab Valley in Jammu, Abdullah made an equally controversial statement when he questioned the government of India’s claim over Pakistan administered Kashmir. “Kya yeh tumare baap ka hai (Is this your fathers’ property),” he made the statement while referring to the Parliament’s resolution on that part of Kashmir. But why has Farooq suddenly sharpened his attacks on both the state government and New Delhi? And why is he talking about walking with the separatists? The 79-year old politician, who has served thrice as chief minister of J&K and once as union minister, is at the fag end of his political career spanning over four decades. He wants to give his last shot before calling it quits, said a senior party leader. The mainstream activities are gradually picking up in Kashmir. The Election Commission is preparing to hold by-elections to two parliamentary seats, Anantnag-Pulwama and Srinagar-Budgam, which have fallen vacant after Mehbooba Mufti’s election to state legislature and Tariq Hamid Karra resignation in September this year in protest against government failure to stop civilian killings. Abdullah is eyeing to make a comeback in active politics and he is likely to contest from Srinagar. His recent utterances could be a well thought-out move to begin with his election plan.

           “His recent statements have to be seen in context to the upcoming parliamentary elections. There is no doubt about that. This will be the important election of his political career if he chooses to contest. His reaching out to separatists is an attempt to create an image of himself and his party where they are seen challenging New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir and siding with common Kashmiris,” explained political analyst Noor Muhammad Baba. Like Farooq, his son and former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has been very calculated in his statements at a time when Kashmir is gradually coming out of months of civilian uprising. In his first speech at the party headquarters in summer capital Srinagar, post July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani, Omar talked about the “betrayals” Kashmiris have faced at the hands of successive regimes in New Delhi. “Each time the situation in Kashmir deteriorates, New Delhi makes tall promises and sets on a mission only to forget them when situation returns to normal,” Omar said on November 30. The former Chief Minister even raised the issue about “discrimination” faced by Kashmir since the PDP-BJP coalition came to power in the state and how the rights of common Kashmir’s were being “snatched”, a reference t o “ diversion” o f d evelopmental funds meant for Kashmir to Jammu, during the uprising. Few days later, Omar spoke about political sentiment espoused by people of J&K and cautioned New Delhi that the recent unrest was the outcome of the “mistakes” made by it by not engaging people of J&K even as he ruled out Pakistan’s role in the unrest.

         “Don’t be under this false impression that the fire you see in Kashmir has been ignited by Pakistan. It is a result of our mistakes. To blame Pakistan alone for the political situation or current unrest is a distortion of the truth,” Omar said, addressing a function in Baramulla. However, another political analyst, Rekha Choudhary, who teaches at University of Jammu, sees the latest posturing by National Conference as “desperate attempt by it to fill the space lost by PDP in Kashmir during the unrest”. “Today, people in Kashmir hold the PDP responsible for the civilian killings. The party has lost much of its ground and a void has been created. National Conference wants to fill this space,” Choudhary told The Wire. “In my view there can be no other explanation to this posturing by National Conference.”