Thursday, January 01, 2009
Omar Abdullah has risen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix. For those who came in late, Omar is the scion of Kashmir’s first family of mainstream politics: the Abdullah’s. His party the national conference [NC] is currently in favour at New Delhi [Flavour of the month, as the corporate-ad media would have it. As if parties were ice-cream cones]. India’s very own GoP -- Congress party -- has decided to truck with NC. This would be the third marriage between the two parties [Indira-Sheikh accord, Rajiv-Farooq accord]. The last two matches didn’t last. Everyone hopes this one does.
Omar has promise. He has everything it takes – He is young [At 38 he will be JK’s youngest ever CM]. He has potential, is known to speak his mind and is eloquent. Both his father and grandfather have been key to the somewhat absurd political theatre of Kashmir. Sadly, outside the hustings, the Sheikhs proved utterly disappointing. While grandpa Sheikh had his moments, Farooq was a flop, whose only vocation in life is his fondness for dance and golf. You don't do 'disco' and attempt 'fat shots' while your backyard burns.
I don’t want to dig history up. It has been murky in the hills. Kashmir’s past has been witness to court intrigues and family duels. New Delhi has forever played Brutus in the vale, while general after ambitious general in Pakistan has attempted to be an Edmund, straight out of King Lear. Amidst such high drama -- where promises were made to be broken, where the tallest leader was promptly cut to size for even daring to stand up, where allegiances change overnight -- the Abdullah’s have kept the flag [of secularism, of family rule, of India] fluttering in Kashmir. And it has never been a cake walk.
A very intelligent newspaper editor once cheekily told me that for the Kashmir imbroglio to be resolved in our lifetimes, we need to wait till the current crop of politicians die. I reckon we don’t need to wait for that. Although I don’t think much of this sub-continent practice of passing the baton within the family [like an heirloom because it makes such mockery of democracy] one's willing to make concessions for Kashmir. We have had enough of the vintage variety who sadly represent our very corrupt polity. They mostly wear huge Kara Kul caps on petty skulls. Kashmir needs a huge dose of educated and promising minds. In that case, Omar is a welcome relief.
They say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Omar is going to lord over a state where his bete noire [PDP of the Mufti’s] and ex-bed fellows [a rejuvenated BJP] are going to lunge at him at every possible opportunity. Add to that the separatist camp, which is still smarting over its apparent loss of face after a complete disregard to their poll boycott call. They can be upto mischief anytime. I don’t know if Omar has read Hegel. There was never a greater need for dialectics.
Abdullah III has got to deliver on myriad fronts. His turbulent state deserves better than pock marked roads and light less nights. He must see to it that his ministers don’t get fat -- as they are often wont to -- and make hay while the sun shines. He has to seriously sit down to try and make genuine attempts to reach out to the youth and not let them go waste. He has to ensure that the troopers don’t attempt their bravery on a poor peasant in their dreaded camps or his task force doesn’t torture a school kid to death in custody. He has to make sure that civil liberties are not trampled with in the countryside where no TV cameras go.
Even if he attempts to achieve one of the above mentioned, Kashmiris will be forever grateful to 40 Gupkar, Kashmir’s 10 Janpath.
It is never going to be easy. I just hope he proves to be the exorcist we badly need to stave off our past ghosts, who still haunt us, from time to time.
I hope Omar makes none of the mistakes of his ancestors.
As for Azadi [freedom], that is for another day.
Happy New Year