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Farooq Abdullah’s advisory to Hurriyat

National Conference patriarch and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah’s caution to Hurriyat Conference not to fall in New Deli’s dialogue trap ‘unless New Delhi has a proposal for the resolution of the issue’ cannot be dismissed as a fit of maverick. The institution of dialogue is the most discredited institution in India. India has never used dialogue as a means to resolve issues. It rather used it as a means to corrupt people, buy time and loyalties and make those who refuse to fall in line irrelevant. It perhaps this fact Farooq Abdullah wanted to bring home when he said “Don’t talk for the sake of talks. I don’t think they (BJP) are ready to give you (separatist) anything. Inki (the center) neyattheeknahihai. Yeah inko nao mein utaarkar zaleel karna chahtayhai. (They are not sincere in their intentions. They want to drag them to table only to discredit them),”. But where Farooq Abdullah seems to have stumbled and stammered is his call for autonomy. “They didn’t give us autonomy, which was passed by the state assembly and is within the ambit of constitution, what will they offer to you (separatists)?” he said. Whether autonomy is a solution to the issue of Kashmir, and would the people, who suffered enormously, both, in men and material, in their fight for ‘freedom’, accept it or not, is a separate debate. But the very question is whether National Conference (NC) was serious ever in its demand for autonomy. Restoration of autonomy to the state is as old a slogan as the post-53 NC. In an academic and intellectual debate NC’s point might have some takers. But politically, the NC has lost all its moral right to make such demand in 1975 when the party’s godfather Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah compromised on the state’s political character and accepted power as it existed on the day. The only concession Abdullah got from Indira Gandhi was that a constitutional committee would be formed to review case by case application of central laws and parliamentary resolutions to the State. Shaikh Abdullah constituted a committee of three members headed by the then Law Minister Devidas Thakur to examine the constitutionality and legality of all central rules applied to the State ever since 1953. The Committee however found only two out of 192 items had some constitutional flaw while the rest 190 items were constitutionally perfect. The two items that stood excluded pertained to very minor and insignificant matters related to sale tax on some items. Even as Shaikh Abdullah did not accept the report and constituted another committee but the matter was never touched on and never raised by his government later. Nor did his progenies Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah or Ghulam Mohammad Shah ever raised the issue. Had the NC leadership been sincere in their demand for pre-53 status to the state, the eruption of militancy had provided them a great chance to barter it with New Delhi. Government of India was desperate to ink a deal with any political party in Kashmir to get the state back on peace rails. Then Prime Minister Narsimha Rao in 1996 promised ‘anything short of Azadi’. “Sky is the limit”, he was reported to have said. But the NC leadership again faulted here and they accepted power against the wishes of common people without making any political or constitutional bargaining with government of India. The most humiliating moment for the party came in 2000 when its resolution on autonomy was summarily dismissed by then BJP-led government. The resolution was passed by the state legislature in a specially convened session in June that year. Dr Farooq Abdullah, as L K Advani has written in his autobiography, was asked to choice between autonomy and his son’s seat in the union ministry. Omar Abdullah was minister of state in the union government then. Farooq Abdullah opted for the continuation of his son as minister instead of insisting on autonomy as noted by Advani in his autobiography. Given the NC’s history of compromises on its political agenda it sounds quite bizarre when its leaders talk of autonomy. Farooq Abdullah has only but made mockery of himself when he advances advisory to Hurriyat leaders on talks with New Delhi. Abdullah knows it well that his party was never serious in demanding autonomy. They raise the slogan of autonomy only to bargain power with the centre. The NC never talks of autonomy when in power. That is sufficiently known to the people of the state and the men and managers in New Delhi as well. It is sheer political hypocrisy to demand a thing one does not believe in.