Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s visit to New Delhi, coupled with an op-ed written by his political advisor Tanvir Sadiq, has raised eyebrows in the Valley, with questions being raised of his intentions in J&K.
Omar flew into Delhi Monday (25 May), around two months after he was released following a 232-day detention. But days earlier, Saturday, the Greater Kashmir newspaper published an op-ed by Sadiq, in which he made a vague call for “reconciliation”.
In a piece head-lined The Lockdown, Sadiq wrote that Kashmir can offer lessons to the world as it has been in a lockdown since 5 August, when the state lost its special status and was converted into an Union Territory by the Modi government.
But while calling for release of political prisoners arrested on and after 5 August 2019, revisiting the controversial domicile law and lifting of curbs on the internet, Sadiq also wrote that “it’s time for reconciliation & reaching out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
That has raised hackles in the Valley’s political circles, with another National Conference (NC) leader Aga Ruhullah taking to Twitter to launch a scathing attack on Sadiq.
“Revisit domicile law? Lift curbs on the Internet? “LET” political process be run? Is that all what you are looking for in this reconciliation? If I am not reading wrong, you are basically asking for 4G and THEIR ‘PERMISSION’ to let us start the political process? & then all is well,” Ruhullah, who is under house arrest at his Budgam residence, tweeted.
“I am honestly ready to be taken to a prison after what I say. But I would never ask them to “LET” us. When you ask them to “let” us, it will naturally be on their terms,” he added.
Ruhullah is a former cabinet minister, a three-time MLA and the NC’s main Shia leader.
Visit personal, NC’s position doesn’t change: Omar
The furore prompted Omar to issue a clarification in a series of tweets Tuesday.
Omar tweeted that Ruhullah and Sadiq were “both entitled to an opinion & to disagree with each other”, adding that it doesn’t change the NC’s stand that it will fight the decisions on 5 August through lawful means.
“I appreciate that people with more time on their hands than usual would like to read more in to this than necessary but that’s just time pass for bored minds. @JKNC_ remains committed to challenging what happened on 5th Aug using all lawful means,” he tweeted, adding that his Delhi visit was a “personal one”.
This, however, has done little to dampen the speculation in Kashmir that the NC leader may cut some sort of deal in New Delhi. This is mainly owing to the fact that his party has largely remained silent on its future politics given that the J&K’s special status has been done away with.
Tanvir Sadiq was not available for a comment.
The op-ed and a Delhi visit
The op-ed and Omar’s Delhi visit have caused anxiety not only in the NC but in other political parties of the Valley given that they had all together signed the Gupkar Declaration, which states that any tinkering with J&K’s special status would be considered an act of war against people of the state.
The declaration was signed on 4 August 2019, a day before Kashmir lost its special status.
With top leaders of the PDP, the Peoples Conference and the Peoples Movement among other political parties still under detention, the onus to take a stand has fallen on the NC as its president Farooq Abdullah and vice-president Omar Abdullah were released in the second week of March.
The party, however, has so far not clearly stated its future course of action citing the continued detention of incarcerated politicians and the Covid-19 crisis.
In this context, Omar’s visit to Delhi, which NC sources insist is a personal one, is being linked to Sadiq’s op-ed piece, especially in the party.
“Mr Sadiq wrote that op-ed in a personal capacity and I responded to him as a Kashmiri. There should be a clear demarcation between what is the party’s stand and that of an individual,” Ruhullah told ThePrint. “We should, however, not jump the gun by saying that the views in the oped are shared by our party leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mr Omar Abdullah.”
Divisions in NC
Two sets of opinions seem to be emerging from within the NC due to the episode.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior NC leader said party cadre and supporters want it to begin the political process in the Valley. A second-rung leader, however, said that there were many takers for Ruhullah’s stand.
“Ruhullah wants NC to make its stand clear and define the political process which Mr Sadiq wants to start. For many there is no other issue be it elections or return of statehood, more important than restoration of special status of J&K,” said the second-rung leader.
Senior leaders in the party are, however, defending the op-ed. “Nowhere does the article mention that we should forget the Gupkar Declaration or take part in elections. So this is not a betrayal. We are not separatists and a political process has to begin sometime,” one senior NC leader told ThePrint.
A second NC leader echoed the views. “We are not separatists so whatever we will do it will be within the system even demanding special status for J&K is a right given to us by the Constitution of India,” he said.
“However, whatever will happen will not be a unanimous decision of one leader. The working committee, the core group of NC, whose members are right now detained under PSA, will sit together with the president and vice president and decide on the future road-map of the party.”
Others wait and watch
Other J&K parties are for now adopting a wait-and-watch policy.
“We can’t say for certain if there is a rift in NC or it is just politicking but our party has not taken the op-ed lightly. It seems the op-ed has been written through approval and it is not just an innocent personal opinion. For now we agree with the stand taken by Mr Ruhullah that the silence by NC which is the oldest political party of J&K, will prove costly,” said Peoples Conference spokesperson Adnan Ashraf.
PDP spokesperson Firdous Tak shared a similar opinion. “I am saying this not in the capacity of a PDP spokesperson but as an individual, that I am not surprised by the op-ed. The NC both before and after abrogation of Article 370 have decided to remain silent and people are realising this slowly”.
But Tak said he would not want to speculate on Omar’s Delhi visit.
“We do not want to speculate on Mr Adullah’s visit neither do we want to issue a comment on his personal visit but if op-eds like these are followed up by visits to Delhi, it is bound to raise eyebrows,” Tak added.
“We just hope the NC remembers the Gupkar Declaration and not take a decision as leaders like Sajad Lone, Mehbooba Mufti, Nayeem Akhtar and Shah Faesal remain under detention.”