Omar Abdullah’s stance on statehood triggers backlash in Kashmir

Published : July 29, 2020 00:00 IST

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during an interview at his residence in Srinagar on July 28. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

The National Conference (N.C.) seems to be divided over the course to be charted out against the Union government’s unilateral actions in Jammu and Kashmir. After former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the party’s working president, gave an interview to an English daily ruling out street agitation and asserting that he would not contest elections as long as Jammu and Kashmir remained a Union Territory, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi resigned as the N.C.’s chief spokesperson.

Mehdi’s resignation hinted at the atmosphere of resentment within the party against the Abdullahs, who, according to party insiders, understand the “limitations of their politics and capacity to offer resistance”.

In his interview, which generated an intense backlash on the Internet from Kashmir’s youths, and local journalists, Omar Abdullah said: “Arrey bhai kisse demand karun? Jinhone liya unhin se main umeed karun ki woh wapas de denge (Who do I ask for restoration of special status? How can I possibly expect that those who took it will give it back to us?)”

However, Twitterati argued that if he was willing to bat for the restoration of Statehood, it defied logic that he should stop short of asking the Centre for a rethink on ending J&K’s semi-autonomy.

Mehdi, in a succinct tweet, declared: “I have sent across my resignation from the post of Chief Spokesperson of @JKNC_. From here on none of my statements should be considered as such.”

He had been voicing his concern against the party leadership and stressing the need to act fast against the Centre. The Abdullahs have maintained that unless key members of the National Conference’s working committee were released, it was next to impossible to decide the course to be followed.

After being trolled on Twitter, Omar Abdullah attempted to allay concerns that his party was reducing the discourse on Kashmir to restoration of statehood.

“The impression is being created that only statehood is required and all other aspects of August 5 have been washed away. That’s lazy and misleading. I have never placed statehood restoration above the fight for J&K’s special status, yet the 370 comments get wiped out,” he said.

A section of the local press is interpreting Mehdi’s resignation as a precursor to a split in the N.C.

However, Frontline has reliable information that Mehdi represents only a marginal section in the N.C. that would like to oppose the party leaders if they choose to jump into the electoral fray.

Party insiders said that only a few would go against the party leadership. “There is more or less unanimity that we cannot do anything beyond putting up a strong case in the Supreme Court [for restoration of special status] and that leaving the [electoral] space for New Delhi’s proxies would be a blunder,” they said.

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