Jammu and Kashmir by-elections 2017: Will pro-separatist stand help Farooq Abdullah to reclaim Srinagar?

Aadil Ikram Zaki Iqbal
After the defeat in 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, Farooq Abdullah appeared to have adopted a pro-separatists line.

Srinagar, Apr 6: National Conference (NC) patron and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah is contesting bypoll from Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Ahead of the polling that will be held on April 9, Farooq Abdullah has drawn all attention with his pro-separatists stand. The pro-separatists position taken by Farooq Abdullah not only triggered a debate but also attempted to snatch the chunk of votes of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which has been soft on separatists.

After the defeat in 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, Farooq Abdullah appeared to have adopted a pro-separatists line. Last year, Farooq Abdullah had extended support to separatist Hurriyat leaders, asking them to carry the “movement for azadi to its conclusion”. “Move ahead, we are with you. We have given our lives for this movement,” Dr Abdullah had said. Recently, Farooq Abdullah sparked controversy, saying that Kashmiri youth were sacrificing their lives for the “Kashmir cause and not for tourism”.

“Those who are pelting stones have nothing to do with tourism. They do it for the sake of nation. They are sacrificing lives so that a solution can be found. They are not sacrificing lives for tourism,” said Farooq Abdullah. His statement was in reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that the youth of Kashmir must choose between tourism and terrorism. The former union minister also said if India and Pakistan were unable to sit across a table to resolve the Kashmir issue, then the US should intervene.

The 79-year-old leader also sought political support from pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami to fight and defeat Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and save the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Addressing a public meeting in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir, Dr Abdullah said, “Today we all, including our brothers in Jamaat-e-Islami, have to come together to fight RSS or our identity and honour will be wiped out. I am just one person but I seek your support so that we can collectively fight against the RSS with honour and courage.”

Speaking to a website, Farooq Abdullah not only justified his pro-separatists stand, but also blamed the PDP-BJP alliance government for the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. “Whatever I am saying, is it not the truth? Are young boys not getting killed because of the policies of the PDP-BJP government. I have not changed my heart. Whatever I say, I hear it and feel what is happening in my state. If we have to ask for the help from an organisation which has been ideologically untouchable what is wrong with that? Did PDP not ally with RSS to spread its divisive agenda here,” Dr Abdullah said.

The National Conference leader also took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on civilian killings in Jammu and Kashmir and said, “Rather than reaching out to the youth and understanding their angst and resentment, the government has unleashed brute force and repression on them.” Whether Farooq Abdullah is having a change of heart that is prompting him to issue pro-separatist statements, going against his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s legacy, or it’s just a poll gimmick, only time will tell us. But with such anti-Indian remarks, Farooq Abdullah has managed to catch the public imagination. A political heavyweight, Farooq Abdullah is probably contesting his last election and he is no mood to face defeat. Only time will tell whether his pro-separatists stand help him to win Srinagar bypoll.

The bypolls in Srinagar and Anantnag Parliamentary constituencies are going to be held on 9 and 12 April, respectively. The results will be announced on April 15. Farooq Abdullah faces a challenge from PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan in Srinagar.