By M.J. Aslam
Many might not have seen Farooq Abdullah ever ‘weeping’ about anything or anybody. He is generally regarded as a careless, jokey or facetious politician who is seldom serious about his business or statements, their damaging impact & reaching to the shitty end of the stick. It is his self-contradictory & ever-changing statements on politics & other things relating to Kashmir that have shaped him as a “non-serious” fellow in general discourse among the Kashmiris & even in India. His flamboyant & luxurious lifestyle, dancing in showbiz parties, singing bajans in temples & suchlike activities have also added sauce to the bitter-taste-food cooked around his personality.
But on one occasion as we know he did not dance, sing or burst into laughter. That was, in October 1996, when after returning from India (pursuant to his several years’ self-exile in London in 1990) following “successful” assembly elections of 1996 (September-October), he wept bitterly at Centaur Hotel Srinagar in presence of the then top leadership & ministries of Union of India who had come to bolster him in his yet another innings as a CM of the State under its most terrible times. Some Indian leaders patted on his back. He was flanked by them for his new CM-ship. AB Vajpayee said to him : Sara Bharat Aap Kay Peechay Khada Hay (whole India stands behind you). I was watching the whole swearing in ceremony live on TV at home. I remember what his reply was when he was asked by someone in the audience why his eyes had shed tears, why had he burst into a weeping-cry of a child on such an “auspicious occasion”. He replied: “I wept after looking at this chair (of CM) because today I feel how incomplete I was without it during these years and it has a force to make people weep & cry”. On hearing these usual comic words of Farooq Abdullah, the whole galaxy of audience including political-leadership of India laughed their heads off. Common masses in JK were, however, watching these dramatic-scenes live on TV at their homes.
I was pushed by my thoughts back to few months when those years, in view of dead & destruction that was still going on alarming scale in JK, not less than total population, was completely disgruntled & disinterested in any election process that was going to be held under the Indian Constitution. Nobody among the people of the valley would talk of elections or candidates.
Earlier the same year (1996), before Parliamentary Elections of May of 1996, Farooq Abdullah was interviewed by Rajiv Shukla, congressman who was anchor person of a famous programme, “Rubaru”, on a private TV channel. Those days, we would watch TV channels via Dish Antenna installed in our homes & Rubaru was a weekly programme shown by a private TV channel of India. PV Narasimha Rao, it may be mentioned, was the then PM of India. He had several times asked Kashmiri politicians & people to join the election processes that were suspended since 1989-1990. He had offered several packages in return. But, as I said nobody in Kashmir felt inclined to accept the offer. Well, that said, in that interview, Rajiv Shukla asked Farooq Abdullah: “why don’t you join the election process…?” Farooq Abdullah, to my utter surprise, gave a reply which was quite unexpected of him. He said: “Rajiv Ji how can I fight elections why my people have been killed in thousands, women raped, thousands jailed, lost their near ones…….how can I face people. Recently, at Amira Kadal bridge seven innocents were killed by CRPF personnel by opening fire just on a tyre-burst of a car…..What shall I tell my people while asking for votes…..”. Rajiv Shukla said that the issues have to be sorted out by discussions & negotiations. Unless you sit & discuss, how solutions could be found & then, Rajiv Shukla asked pointedly: “PV Narasimha Rao Ji being the PM of India has assured you , Kashmiri people, your concerns will be addressed & full justice will be done to you, Kashmiris. He has said this on floor of Parliament and he is willing to discuss the things under Delhi Agreement of 1952…….” Farooq Abdullah again struck a verbal-missile by saying: “Do you think I am fool to fall in election fray… like promises were also made to my father by Indian leaders. What came out of those promises, and discussions? Nothing. We cannot trust Indian leadership anymore….” Farooq Abdullah continued angrily by picking a paper from the table & waving it on Rajiv Shukla: “Rajiv Ji you talk of Delhi Agreement. That is a simple piece of paper. What is its significance, nothing..?” I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t believe what this man was saying. My uncle who was sitting next to me in the room said: “Son, don’t get carried away by the statement of this political turncoat. He will soon change them. It is just political gimmicks of which he & his family are well known.. …”. I was so much thrilled & influenced for a moment by Farooq Abdullah’s sharp replies that I failed to agree with my uncle’s words based on sheer wisdom & past experiences about that man’s political life.
In May 1996 Parliamentary elections were held in India. In JK, they were described total “forced franchise”. The weekly magazine of India in its June 5, 1996 edition wrote: “Security forces in tandem with renegade militants hustle voters to the polling booths …..The role of the security forces ever since polls were announced has been such that doubts persist on whether the elections were “free and fair”. …..Points out, Saif-ud-Din Soz, official spokesman of NC, these elections were full of irregularities. Everything was allowed to happen in the “national interest”……”
In those general elections of 1996, the congress party headed by PV Narasimha Rao, as PM, lost decisively. No other party had the required majority to form the government. Thus, all non-Congress & non-BJP parties with support of Congress jointly formed the government & HD Deve Gowda was unanimously chosen as 11th PM of India. Immediately, after HD Deve Gowda took over the PM of India on 1st June 1996, Farooq Abdullah’s NC started exhibiting clear tendencies & inclinations to rejoin Indian election theatre in JK. He had openly played the bugle of his willingness to fight assembly elections that were ultimately conducted by India in September-October, 1996.
I well remember, one day, while watching TV at my home, I saw him returning from Delhi with some other party workers & a witty journalist hurriedly while following him at airport put few questions to him: “Sir….till yesterday you were not agreeing to contest elections. ….how come have you decided to do it now ….?”. “HD Deve Gowda has promised “maximum autonomy” for our State”, replied walking Abdullah. “But sir, PV Narsimha Rao too was assuring “sky is the limit”, …. you didn’t, however, show interest in that offer …?” “Yes….we didn’t trust their promises…. We know HD Deve Gowda is a farmer’s son, he will not break his promise”. With that new mantra for rejoining Indian elections, he walked his way towards the departure side of the airport.
After listening to these words of Farooq Abdullah, I was reminded of what my uncle had told me earlier that Farooq Abdullah will soon change his position & statement on the issue. So, his words came true.
As yet, like May Parliamentary elections of 1996, the assembly elections of September-October, 1996 in JK State are invariably believed to have been unfair & it is expressly stated by the reporters that those assembly elections too were made “possible due to efforts of counter-insurgents”. (Times of India dated 13-09-2013). Early this year, Usman Majid, a former counter-insurgent, who has closely worked with Kuka Parray and now Congress MLA from north Kashmir’s Bandipora town shouted on BJP-PDP coalition members in State Assembly : “Don’t forget the role of counter-insurgents…….. It is because of people like Parray that you are sitting in this Assembly. If we (MLAs) are speaking here, it is because of Parray. In the 90s, Mufti (Mohammad Sayeed) told Parray that we are with you, go ahead.” http:// www. firstpost.com/politics/jk-assembly-dont-forget-the-role-counter-insurgent-leader-kuka-parray-says-congress-mla-3195772.html
We may end on this note that India had lost its constitutional & administrative control on J&K from 1989-1996. It was only Military Control that it exercised on it through its Governors. It was Farooq Abdullah’s joining election process of India that again helped India & saved it from lot of international pressure to find a solution to this vexed issue .
Note: The views expressed here are personal and not of the organisation the author works for.