Abdullah’s seek a place on the ‘unity’ bandwagon
Say no to seeking legal remedy for release
Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and his father and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah have asked their party men not to seek legal remedy for their release unless other detained leaders in the state are released too.
The two NC leaders have been under detention since 5 August when the Narendra Modi government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in a historic decision.
NC leader and Anantnag MP Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi said, “We asked them if they wanted us to find any legal remedy for their release. They responded by saying absolutely not. Both of them said that unless and until all political leaders are not released, they too would prefer to remain under arrest.”
Masoodi made the comments after a meeting with the father-son duo.
While there was talk within the state administration in the second week of October about the release of NC general secretary Ali Sagar, the latter refused to engage saying he would only agree to it if senior leaders from PDP are released along with him, said a source who didn’t wish to be named.
The National Conference leaders’ move, however, is not an isolated one.
To not seek a legal remedy for detention is part of a larger strategy that is being adopted by mainstream politicians in the Valley who are likely to raise a united front against the Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370.
Even Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has expressed the same intention.
On 6 October, Mufti cancelled a meeting with a PDP delegation without any explanation. Her move came on the same day a delegation of Jammu-based NC leaders was allowed to meet Farooq and Omar Abdullah.
Sources in the PDP said Mufti didn’t want to send out a message that the party’s political activity had resumed.
Politics in the state was brought to a standstill in August when scores of senior leaders from NC, PDP, Congress and Peoples Conference were detained or arrested by the state administration ahead of the Centre’s Article 370 move
Various NC and PDP officials said the ‘Gupkar Declaration’ signed by all Valley-based parties “is and will remain binding”.
Under the declaration signed on 4 August, all the parties pledged to unite and fight for Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
“It is binding on all of us,” said a former PDP MLA who didn’t wish to be named. Several party workers, from both NC and PDP, were also of the same view but refused to speak on record. Hasnain Masoodi, however, confirmed some of the details.
“One thing is clear that all parties met on 4 August and came out with the Gupkar Declaration. Once the leaders are out, there may be continuation of the declaration, there might be consultations on how to meet the challenge,” said Masoodi.
“If not for electoral purpose, I don’t know who will go which way, but we can expect some kind of exercise after their release, probably a joint course of action… It is not a simple question of participation in elections or not, it is a larger question on how to respond to this new situation,” Masoodi added.
The Anantnag MP said strengthening autonomy and self-rule used to be the electoral plank for NC and PDP, respectively, and other parties would also talk J&K’s autonomy.
“The parties have to sit together and see what their future is. Now that the state’s special status has been stripped away, a new scenario has emerged and the parties have to have a new look,” said Masoodi.
While there seems to be an emergence of some unity between the two major parties in Jammu and Kashmir, members from both NC and PDP have mentioned that they are at the crossroads of “altering their politics”.
Led by prominent faces of NC and PDP, one segment wants to uphold the ‘Gupkar Declaration’ and stay away from electoral politics. The other advocates to play by the new rules set by the BJP regime and resume political activity, keeping the demand of statehood as the focus.
The former state of Jammu and Kashmir is set to be bifurcated into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh — on 31 October. The decision was announced on 5 August when the state’s special status was stripped away.
The detention of senior Abdullah’s sister and daughter last week over small demonstrations in Srinagar also posed a question for the two parties — what sort of political activity are they supposed to engage in when their leaders are released.
At the moment, the Abdullahs and the Muftis seem to be drifting farther away from electoral politics, towards political activism.
Both the parties have already announced non-participation in the upcoming Block Development Council (BDC) elections, in which panchs and sarpanchs get to elect BDC chairmen for 316 blocks in the state.
Even though a final decision on the future of their electoral activity will only be arrived at after the release of the senior leaders, party sources said “staying away from electoral politics” is more likely to become a reality for the two parties.
With Omar Abdullah detained at Hari Niwas, Mehbooba Mufti at Chasmashahi and Farooq Abdullah at his own residence in Srinagar, senior leaders from different political parties detained together at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre seem to be on the verge of arriving at a consensus to form a joint front, said sources.
The state administration has been sending feelers to detained leaders of both the political parties to gauge the possible softening or hardening of their stance, said a party worker who was released recently.
But the stance seems to be hardening within the top brass as well as first and second rung leadership of the parties. Those who are not on board are likely to move on, said sources in the party.
“The National Conference had been fighting for greater autonomy for J&K and the PDP for self rule. Now both things have been completely decimated. We have to come up with a plan for something beyond this, or simply not exist,” said the former PDP MLA quoted above.
Asked what kind of future PDP is looking at, the ex-MLA said, “I don’t think electoral politics will be an option for us for a while.” (Theprint.in)