Omar Abdullah's input on 1996 saga has led to a spate of speculations in media and social networking sites. Omar's input on his father—Farooq Abdullah stepping in to stop Ikhwan's Kuka Parray from taking over as CM has more shades than he would like to admit. Or, there is much more to it, which might be beyond his knowledge, given the fact that in line of dynastic succession, he was still being groomed. In his 'GK' Sunday column Ajaz-ul-Haque dissected Omar's defence of his father's role in aclassic political satire. The satire is Ajaz's strong suite, he excels in it. Ikhwan indeed pales in comparison, given the collaborative service NC has rendered over the years. Ajaz rightly called Ikhwan child of a theory, which NC has fathered much earlier. There is however much more to 1996 than what Ajaz has put in masterly account.
In 1996, J&K state was face to face with markeddemocratic deficit. The deficit though has largely been a rule, rather than an exception. However, over a period of more or less six years, from 1990 to 1996, even the façade of democracy was missing. Reeling under militancy, the state was under President's rule, as per articles 356 and 357 of Indian constitution, applicable in the state since 1965. As it stands, Governor's rule under section 92 of Jammu and Kashmir constitution cannot be extended beyond six months. Series of extensions were granted to President's rule. The gubernatorial office during this period was held by former head of the intelligence agency–Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Girish Chandra Sexana from 26 May 1990 to 13 March 1993. He was succeeded by former chief of the Indian Army—Gen KV Krishna Rao from 13 March 1993 to 2 May 1998. The selection from a spymaster to a former general was meant to combat militancy by first securing the intelligence grid, later taking head on the militancy by armed might.
In nineties up to 1996, there was hardly any space for mainstream political activity. NC was in a state of hibernation. Mainstream in Kashmir, whatever the state of its activity; up to turn of the century was almost exclusively NC's domain. PDP then intruded into mainstream space, vertically dividing the realm. Farooq Abdullah in nineties up to 1996 elections frequentedLondon, European capitals, and US to plead Indian case on Kashmir in global councils. It was an era, when India was being increasingly questioned on Kashmir. Rabin Raphael—US Assistant Secretary of State in Bill Clinton administration had Kashmir high on her radar. She was deeply in touch with Kashmir's resistance leadership. Much to India's chagrin, the mainstream face to defend Indian stance was missing on the Kashmir scene, hence the urgency to re-start the electoral process. Farooq Abdullah seemed to be the obvious choice to fulfil the objectives. However, alternatives were being explored in the resistance realm. The relevant quarters were actively probing the possibility.
Indian Prime Minister in early nineties from 1991 to 1996—PV Narshima Rao had sounded the bugle by saying that ''Sky is the limit'' vis-à-vis reaching out to Kashmiris. The statement was widely taken to be an attempt to appease the Kashmiri secessionists and to induce the people of Kashmir to take part in the democratic processes. It was widely circulated that short of Azadi, anything could be on table. Even Bhutan like status was floated as a solution. It was much in vogue in earlier decades too, as and when a search was on for finding a solution to Kashmir issue within the Indian context. It was meant to induce sections of resistance realm to explore a compromise. And, it was being weighed by some sections seriously. Mainstream NC was clamouring for autonomy, meaning return to 1953 status.
''Sky is the limit'' was taken too seriously, in the belief that Indian nation sate was under enough pressure to concede an autonomy of sorts or even the high sounding Bhutan like status. Farooq Abdullah led NC in spite of being prompted did not take part in 1996 Lok Sabha elections. It was an effort to put pressure. Or, give NC a face saving device, a semblance of autonomy to enable the party to face the electorate, hardly knowing that GOI was exploring other options. Other options were in fact a political finesse taken to induce sections of resistance realm with larger concessions on the table, and more important unbridled power.
1996 elections saw PV Narshima Rao out of power. In hung parliament, non-congress, non-BJP combine took power. HD Deve Gowda was chosen to head the combine.GOI policy on Kashmir however stayed on course. His ministry included Maqbool Dar as Minister of State in Ministry of Home Affairs. It was another indicator to show that GOI had other options. Of the period in focus, informed sources relate that NC top brass—Farooq Abdullah, Ataullah Suhrwardy, Gh. Mohammad Badarwahi, Mohiuddin Shah, Saifuddin Soz were camping in Delhi, with GOI holding the olive branch. The demand for autonomy was however not forthcoming, with GOI councils sticking to Indira Gandhi set line that clock cannot be turned back. And NC evading the electoral process could have GOI explore other options in hand. Ultimately NC came around and joined the electoral politics without a semblance of a concession. And, it had to accommodate Ikwanis' like Kuka Parray, Usman Majid, and Javid Shah in the power structure. The sordid tale of supplementing political postures continued. Rest is history.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]