Protagonists of the J&K Cauldron Part 2

This is in continuation to the blog titled, Movers and Shakers of Kashmir – Part 1

Farooq Abdullah (1937 – )

  • President National Conference: 1981
  • Chief Minister: Sept 1982 – July 1984
  • Chief Minister: Nov 1986 – Jan 1990
  • Chief Minister: Oct 1996 – Oct 2002
  • Minister of New and Renewable Energy: May 2009 – May 2014

Son of Sheikh Abdullah and a doctor by profession, Farooq Abdullah became President of National Conference in 1981 and subsequently Chief Minister of J&K, after his father’s death in 1982; a position that came to him as a legacy rather than any political activism or grassroots support.

He has since been in and out of office on several occasions but has remained central to Kashmiri politics all through. A person with western upbringing and modern thought, he was viewed by many locals as a non-Kashmiri and closer to the Indian mainstream than other local leaders. Resentment against him kept rising through his collective tenure, although his National Conference kept putting up a strong performance in various elections.

He has frequently been accused for poll rigging and corruption, although none have been proven till date. However, two facts remain; his family and those of his party men have grown prosperous during his tenure, and people at the grassroots level have not received the benefits of development despite Centre pouring in hugh funds into the state to buy peace.

It was the general disaffection against his rule that helped Pakistan re-kindle the local voice for Azadi in J&K. It was also during his tenure that armed militancy rose to become the new normal.

While his patriotism cannot be challenged, his ability to administer and provide clean governance has always been up for debate.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (1936-2016)

  • Minister of Home Affairs: Dec 1989 – Nov 1990
  • Chief Minister: Nov 2002 – Nov 2005
  • Chief Minister: March 2015 – Jan 2016

He is the founder of the J&K People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a party he founded in 1989. Mufti Mohammad first courted major controversy when within days of taking charge as India’s Home Minister in the Union Cabinet under VP Singh, he was instrumental in releasing five dreaded terrorists belonging to JKLF, in exchange for the release of his third daughter Rubaiya who had been kidnapped by militants in Kashmir.

This one single capitulation by the central government at the time is seen by many analysts as the turning point in armed militancy in the state. His tenure as Home Minister thereafter was short-lived. His tenure as CM was highlighted by peace overtures with Pakistan, led by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which saw cross border trade and movement open up with Pakistan.

Omar Abdullah (1970 – )

  • Minister of State for External Affairs: July 2001 – Dec 2002
  • Chief Minister: Jan 2009 – Jan 2015

For Omar Abdullah, being son of Farooq Abdullah and grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, joining politics was a natural legacy and he took the big leap at the age of 29, when he gave up plans of pursuing a medical profession and went head long into politics.

Joining NC came with the baggage of being Farooq Abdullah’s son. This meant, he had to work twice as hard for creating his own political identity and space in Kashmiri politics. His tenures as MOS and CM have been a mixed bag, often overshadowed by militancy in the state. Despite his best efforts, he has not been able to make any headway in drawing people away from a violent path, although a significant part of his tenure did see reduced levels of militancy.

Mehbooba Mufti (1959 – )

  • Chief Minister: April 2016 – till date

Daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti took over as Chief Minister within months of her father’s death in early January in 2016. She has formed her coalition government with support from BJP and is still in the process of asserting her position as CM.

Having taken support from the BJP, a party viewed with deep suspicion in the state, she is caught between her own political ideology and that of BJP. The recent killing of Burhan Wani by security forces in the state and the subsequent violence that has since followed, has put her government under the severest of test and it remains to be seen how she manages to hold her own.

She finds herself in a tough spot as she needs to retain support of the people, fight the separatists and also ensure that BJP continues to back her. Meanwhile, the valley continues the circle of violence and curfew.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (AHPC)

The problem with politics in J&K is that there are diverse opinions on what is best for the state. There are factions that seek autonomy but understand that complete Azadi may never happen. Then, there are factions that have pursued armed militancy and have realized its futility and have agreed to follow the path of political power through the ballot, and then there are the hardline elements that seek to align with Pakistan and identify with the commonality of Islam.

AHPC comprises some 26 diverse political and social groups that have come together to present a united fight for autonomy.

Some of the influential leaders of AHPC are:

Syed Ali Shah Geelani (1929 – )

Syed Geelani is a hardline Pakistan-leaning leader who does not hide his dislike for the concept of India and believes that his state’s future lies in aligning with Pakistan. There are times when he has advocated joining Pakistan and at other times he has spouted calls for Azadi from both Pakistan and India.

Beyond the ‘Islamic’ affinity to Pakistan, he is clueless on how an ‘Azad’ Kashmir would survive the Pakistani-Punjabi cultural-political-economic onslaught of Kashmir that will most certainly be followed by hardline Sunni Islamist ideology, which is an anathema to most Kashmiris, who mostly follow moderate versions of Sunni-Shia Islam and are influenced by Sufi traditions.

Geelani personifies hypocrisy when he advocates school to lead the stone pelting against heavily armed security forces, when his own children and grandchildren live in the safety and comfort of metro cities of India and earn a living from the very nation he so detests.

This hypocrisy is also one of the reasons why he has never emerged as a mainstream political leader.

He has achieved little and contributed minimal to the development and welfare of the people of J&K. His only legacy remains gains for himself and for his family.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (1973 – )

Mirwaiz Farooq was just 17 when his father, the late Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, was assassinated by unknown persons. He has since pursued politics and is also a religious leader respected by Kashmiris. His major achievement has been to unite over 26 factions of separatists under the AHPC to put up a united voice seeking Azadi.

Educated and articulate, Mirwaiz Farooq has been pushing for a dialogue between India, Pakistan and APHC, which he believes is the sole voice of the Kashmiri people. He has completely ignored the fact that the Hurriyat neither has the political mandate from the people, nor do they have the support of large parts of J&K which includes, Ladakh and Jammu regions.

Although he has tried to present a united front of the AHPC, there are dissensions within AHPC and include disagreements with Syed Geelani on the way forward.

Must Read:

Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron – Part 1

Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron – Part 3

Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron – Part 4

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