`What has happened to Omar'?
The question haunts New Delhi. Why has a chief minister, who till now used all force to muzzle public voice, suddenly changed his mind
GUEST COLUMN BY SEEMA MUSTAFA
Discussions in Delhi’s finicky drawing rooms centre round Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. “What has happened to Omar,” is the question being asked by the elite, used to the stylish chief minister speaking their language. “Really this man cannot cope”, is the emerging consensus of the so called strategic community in the national capital, who had no problem with the young leader while he was using all his authority to muzzle dissent and protests in Kashmir but now find his statements questioning the status of the state highly questionable. “He is just sulking” is the view of those who claim to know him personally as they go around assuring all who care to listen that his remark was just a one off occurrence and he will soon “be talking sense again.”
The Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have applauded the young man for talking sense. But one senses a certain reserve amongst the youth, as the chattering Facebook does not really reflect either a celebration of the supposed turnaround, or renewed trust in Omar Abdullah. There is a strange silence, as if everyone is now waiting for his next statement before taking a considered decision. And those who have cared to comment make it clear that this is rhetoric at best. After all the chief minister is in position to make a difference through action, and a few words here and there are meaningless unless these are backed by a serious initiative forward.
As a first step the rest of India has to stop looking at Kashmiris as trouble makers, and become more sensitive and responsive to the high levels of exploitation there. The lack of knowledge and understanding about the issue and about the people is simply amazing. There are many in civil society who are seriously concerned and are doing their little bit in the hope it will make a difference. But there is urgent need now for the political class to reach out and build bridges so that, at least in the first instance, the oppression and suppression of the people ceases. Unfortunately, the all party delegation that had gone to the state seems to have lost the impetus of the visit, with the political leaders quite happy to remain an appendage to the government at the centre instead of launching a political initiative that could have at least addressed some of the burning issues and demands of the people.
The movement forward seems to have stalled as well, with the UPA government taking an unusually long time in even fixing something as simple as interlocutors for the promised dialogue between Srinagar and New Delhi. Days are turning into weeks, and although some of the stone pelters have been released, and curfew lifted in parts, there is still no relief from the continuing tension and uncertainty of conflict. The Valley remains a powder keg and it indeed extremely unfortunate that the urgency of the situation is still lost on the government that needs to act immediately to prevent the situation from deteriorating to a point of no return.
Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram seems to be speaking in two voices, with the pliant media being manipulated to constantly carry stories about his concern for Kashmir. Unfortunately, this concern is not really reflected on the ground as the strategy seems to be to delay the implementation of even the few decisions that the government itself claims to have agreed upon. It is absolutely imperative to get the talks off the ground, and to do so in a transparent and accountable manner. Accountability is always to the people, not to superiors and to bosses.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for reasons best known to him, has stopped steering the ship. Sources in Delhi keep floating stories about how the Prime Minister is very concerned, how he wants measures to be taken immediately, how he wants the chief minister to be replaced but cannot because Rahul Gandhi is supporting his friend in Srinagar etc etc. The point is that if a Prime Minister finds he is unable to function, that his writ as such does not run, that he is stymied at every step by either his cabinet colleagues or Congress bosses, he does have one good and effective recourse available to him. He should resign, and so long as he does not do that one can only presume that he is party to all the decisions--- or in this case---lack of decisions, and is as responsible as any other in government or in the ruling party at the centre.
Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah are good friends. So when the chief minister was under attack from the people he is elected to represent he got full support from Rahul Gandhi. What does that mean to the youth on the receiving end in Kashmir? Nothing. Their problems continue, the anger is not diminished, the frustration remains, and the chief minister who has completely lost their support because of his arrogance and indifference continues to rule. So when he says that Kashmir is not an integral part of India, or some such words to that effect, it does not impact on the young people or make him more credible in the state. His worth will now be judged by what he does on the ground, how fast he is able to deliver on the promises and whether, if at all, he is able to recover some of the lost trust and confidence of the people.
It is a sad commentary on New Delhi that all it can do is pick up a broom and sweep all pending and important issues vigorously, under the carpet. Differences in opinion within the government on Kashmir, have led to a policy of vacillation where all options are discussed but no action taken. The Congress party has become adept at delay, and is again trying to buy time by feeding nuggets of disinformation to the media at frequent intervals. And we journalists, of course are happy, so long as we are first out of the news in this circus of newspapers and television channels.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 10 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 11 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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