The outcome of AFSPA fight can define Omarís term
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
After striking some dramatic blows for the partial revocation of AFSPA, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is playing it cool. He talks of consultations with the parties involved and addressing the concerns of the army. In fact, a high ranking team of senior police and the administrative officers is going to New Delhi to try and work out a consensus. However, unlike earlier when CM talked of AFSPA repeal ďin a few daysĒ there is no deadline this time. Army, on the other hand, is showing no signs of toning down its position. It is in no mood to accede to even phased rollback of the law.
However, the chances of a showdown on the issue between Omar and the defence forces that loomed menacingly on the horizon have receded for now. The parties have dispersed to battle some other day. Some would say that the CM lost the first round to army and has now retired to warm up for the next. But return, he will. CM, who always flaunts the three-word motto of his school in Sanawar, Never Give In, can be hoped to get back and fight again.
But the way Omar went about the whole business of repealing AFSPA, even going ahead to announce that the act was about to go, one canít but wonder where did his confidence come from. As it later turned out, but for a some sort of supposed understanding with home minister P Chidambaram, nobody was on board. Army soon made its opposition known and didnít budge an inch in the days to come. If one thought the army here was acting alone, the impression was soon dispelled by the defence minister A K Antony who struck ever more hardline on the law. Antony ended up saying that only Unified Command in the state was in a position to take the decision, thereby implying that the elected chief minister had no overriding authority here.
What is more, CMís own coalition partner Congress refused to support him on the issue, even while the party principally expressed itself in favour of the revocation. State Congress president Saif-u-Din Soz instead publicly accused CM of not taking the party along before announcing the impending rollback of the law. Soz called for wider consultations on the need for revoking the law, thereby stalemating Omarís gameplan to push through the process. Sozís concerns found echo in the statements of the Congress leaders at the centre even while his bid for a rotational Congress CM found few takers.
Chidambaram, meanwhile, didnít do or say anything that could help CMís cause or that would lend credence to the public impression that he also sought an immediate revocation. Omarís high profile meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, finance minister P Chidambaram, Antony and Chidambaram himself helped in no way to advance his goal. Instead he is said to have been to told to hold his horses and give time for more consultations before army comes on board.
What these meetings and their outcome has done is that they have made CM look puny against the alleged massive dimensions of the issue of AFSPA rollback. And his initial bid to see the back of this law Ė albeit partially Ė appears at best stultifying. This is what makes people wonder what led the CM to make the announcement of an impending rollback in the first place. Was it on the basis of some solid assurance that was not later kept up? Was it his honest, personal effort to force the hand on the issue? Or was it, as alleged by some opposition parties, an ingenious attempt to divert attention away from his beleaguered situation at the time? He raised the issue in the immediate wake of alleged custodial death of National Conference worker Syed Yousuf who was handed over to police by CM himself after allegedly finding him involved in some illegal financial dealings. This makes the demand for AFSPA rollback a shrewd political move to reclaim a ceded political space.
However, whatever the motivations, nobody can take away from the desirability of the goal. But CMís sincerity on this will be tested. It will be tested by the kind of fight he is willing to put up. And this fight will not only be for the repeal of AFSPA but also against the longstanding NC tradition of a charged struggle and tame surrender. It is hard not to recall how the party dealt with its own autonomy resolution in 1999 and many, many other struggles before that. Omar now has a rare chance to break from this history on an issue whose outcome can veritably define his tenure.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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