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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 39 New Delhi September 15, 2018

Of NC, Farooq Abdullah and the Politics of Appropriation

Saturday 15 September 2018

by Mohammad Ashraf Khwaja

During the heydays of European colonialism, ‘the beautiful valley of Kashmir inhabited by ugly Kashmiris’ was the standard signature of a European travel narrative about Kashmir. Nevertheless, no European traveller attributed the term ‘hypocrite’ with Kashmiris. One would presumably understand the lack of agency among colonial subjects in imagining their identities. Their stereotyping of Kashmiri people was, therefore, understandable and unsur-prising. However, it becomes particularly frustrating when the architects of the ongoing agony in Kashmir, the indigenous brokers who mortgaged Kashmir’s newly won freedom, take patronising roles in damning a whole population they pushed into servitude. It is like adding insult to injury. To be precise, Farooq Abdullah’s latest attribution of hypocrisy with Kashmiris is a flagrant display of chutzpah and shame-lessness. Or, he has a poor sense of history.

If hypocrisy is a trait characterised by double-standards, newspeak and Machiavellian instru-mental use of everything—including morality and religion—the Sheikh Abdullah’s playboy son, Farooq Abdullah, merits to be called a ‘high-profile hypocrite’. He knows when to chant bhajans in order to make himself sound extra- secular and liberal and sit in the front row of Eid prayers to authenticate his being part of the ostracised community. Like his father, he has mastered the art of displaying selective rage against Indian repressive policies in public platforms and at the same time defending the same state when talking to his political benefactors in Delhi.

To keep himself afloat in public memory he evokes controversies with his puerile antics. Every time a child is blinded by a pellet gun or a youth is hunted down by the security forces, he adds a dramatic tone to his plea for peace and vents anger at the murky Pakistani hand. He can’t address an issue head-on. Because he can’t defend the indefensible deeds of his father and of himself. And yet Kashmiris are hypocrites!

Well, recently while paying tribute to Atal Behari Vajpayee in New Delhi, Farooq Abdullah, the self-appointed true representative of moderate Islam in Kashmir, chanted ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ several times. Perhaps this was addressed to Nagpur. After all, he can’t allow Sajjad Lone score more points in the show of loyalty towards the political dispensation at the Centre. This distasteful moment came with a sense of déjà vu. The other day he was heckled and forced to beat a hasty retreat before completing the Eid Namaz at the Hazratbal dargah. When the tabloid journos sought his reaction, he termed Kashmiris ‘non-sense’, ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’ and ‘enemies of peace’. Abusing and accusing Kashmiris on India’s Republic TV is a highly profane act in Kashmir’s public imagination these days.

Who forgets Farooq Abdullah’s sensational claim when he said ‘Kashmir ko goli maro’ in July 2010 at a press conference in New Delhi! Then in March 2014, he termed Kashmiris as thieves (Kashmiri chor nehi maha chor hai). In December 2016, it was the same Farooq Abdullah who, while speaking to his party workers, said: ‘I stand by the side of the Hurriyat and urge my workers not to stay behind in Kashmir’s struggle.’ His Machiavellian crafts don’t end here. In April 2017, he called the ‘stone pelters as nationalists who are fighting for the Kashmiri nation’. And now he calls Kashmiris stupid and senseless on Arnab’s Republic TV. All these brazen sides are known to none other than Farooq Abdullah.

One could rarely see Arnab Goswami listening so patiently to any of his panelists from Kashmir. Yet this time Farooq was heard patiently because he served the perfect recipe to the loudmouth anchor: praising India extensively and speaking about Kashmiris in unpleasant terms. At a time when Kashmir-bashing had become a great TRP earner in the Indian jingoistic media, Farooq Abdullah’s venom against Kashmiris was a ‘welcome change’ for many in the corridors of power. Moreover, what was most striking in the whole show between these seemingly ‘ultra-nationalist Indians’ was that of Farooq’s repeated pleadings to Arnab for his support to the former in future, It seemed that the NC President is likely to make some bargain with India to fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Mehbooba Mufti. At the end of the day, these sold-out Abdullahs and their followers should bear in mind that this is not a gullible generation whom the Sheikh ditched, dumped and deserted. This is the generation of intifada and resistance who understand gimmickry and are unwilling to weaken the sentiment of dissent at any cost. His heckling is indicative of how difficult it is for mainstream politicians to run with the hare and hunt with the hound.

The humiliation of Farooq Abdullah at the Hazratbal shrine marks the beginning of the demise of the NC as a party which used this shrine as their bastion to consolidate their grip over the people through trickery and double-speak. The Hazratbal shrine, which was considered by the Abdullahs as their property and from the pulpit of which they spread lies to the people, is no more an unchallenged space to provide them legitimacy.

Bottom-line: The guarding of Sheikh Abdullah’s grave by the police round the clock alludes to the fact that he was not an authentic leader of the native Kashmiris. He has neither been forgotten nor forgiven. Farooq could curry favours from New Delhi by his Kashmir- bashing rhetoric but can’t ensure his place in a public graveyard after death without the police protection of his grave. What would it be if he ever desires to be buried in a Shaheed mazar alongside the 1931 martyrs whose legacy his tribe reclaims or those ‘violent, extremist Kashmiris’ whose 20 rounds of funerals would have made even Sheikh Abdullah jealous. The mere thought of it makes one smile.

The author is a Doctoral Fellow at the Centre of Advanced Study in History at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. He can be reached at makhaja[at]myamu.ac.in

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