By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-29 21:07:44
The way several J&K leaders have interpreted Omar Abdullah's interview and the op-ed article in The Indian Express is unfortunate. Nowhere in the interview or the article did Abdullah say that he wanted a restoration of statehood for J&K without the special powers and privileges as before. To interpret his statement that he would never contest elections as long as J&K remained a Union territory as meaning that if statehood was restored he would join the political process is wrong. The other leaders say that Abdullah's stand smacks of a sell-out to the Centre.
But they forget that in the long article, that was but one line. The rest of the article spoke of how the people of J&K were humiliated as the sovereign guarantee given to them on joining India was not honored by this government. His detractors are also overlooking the fact that in the same article he also wrote that "having been a member of the most empowered Assembly in the land and that, too, as the leader of that Assembly for six years, I simply cannot and will not be a member of a House that has been disempowered the way ours has."
Hence, the resignation of Agha Ruhullah, an influential leader of the National Conference (NC) from the party is premature. Also, the political storm over the interview and the article is unfortunate. Abdullah had categorically stated in the article that "we, in the J&K National Conference, do not agree with what has been done to J&K nor do we accept what has been done. We shall oppose this, our opposition will continue in the highest court in the land in the form of the legal challenge filed in the Supreme Court last year."
But it is a long road ahead. Politicians and political parties in J&K have to accept the reality that even if statehood is restored in J&K, it will never get back the powers and privileges associated with Articles 370 and 35A. They have to calibrate their response accordingly and set the agenda for the future political discourse in the state keeping this changed reality in mind. Abdullah knows this and wrote that "with almost all of my senior colleagues still detained in their homes, the NC is yet to meet to decide its next political course of action and I will work diligently to strengthen the party, carry forward its agenda and continue to represent the aspirations of the people while we fight against the injustices heaped on J&K in the last one year." That is the right way. Once the government releases all political prisoners in J&K, they should sit and decide the next course of action in the changed circumstances. It is not about Omar Abdullah or any other leader. It has to be a collective decision of the decision-making bodies in all political parties in the state.