The outcome of the elections in Jammu and Kashmir has important messages for both Indians and Pakistanis. First, the healthy turnout of voters conclusively proves that the calls by some Kashmiri leaders for a boycott fell on deaf ears. All the fire-breathers of Srinagar’s Lal Chowk were silenced. Their Pakistani cousins across the line of control should now realise that Indian Kashmiris have had their fill of infiltrators with mischievous intent and should stop abetting them.
I am overjoyed at the emergence of young Omar Abdullah as the unquestioned leader of new Kashmir. There’s more to him than just a spokesman of Kashmiri aspirations. His voice resounds across the length and breadth of the entire country. He is perhaps the first Muslim leader since Independence who commands the respect of all Indians.
He is articulate and a good orator in Kashmiri, Urdu and English. What he says is not empty rhetoric but makes good sense and warms everyone’s hearts. He has all the qualities of leadership laid down by Allama Iqbal to the leader of the caravan: Yaqeen mahkam, amal paiham, mohabbat Fateh-aalam Jihad-e-zindagani mein hain yeh meer-e-kaaraavan kee shamsheeren (In man’s crusade in life, he has three weapons: Faith that his cause is just, courage to wage a war till eternity, love that embraces all humanity)
Omar Abdullah’s lineage is impeccable. He is the grandson of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah who opted to remain in secular India rather than join Islamic Pakistan. He is the son of Farooq Abdullah, ex-chief minister of Kashmir. He is highly educated, a product of Burnhall School, Srinagar; Lawrence School, Sanawar and Sydenham College, Bombay, from where he passed his BCom to become a management consultant.
He has plenty of experience: twice elected to the Lok Sabha and minister in Vajpayee’s BJP-led government. The right kind of family: mother, an Irish; wife, Payal, a Hindu; sister, married to Sachin Pilot, a Hindu. He is above communal prejudices.
He should see that the residents of Jammu, who are largely Hindu, feel that they are Kashmiri. He should rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits who have been rendered homeless. He should also outline in specific detail what he means by autonomy for his state. So far this has never been clearly spelt out.
He should bring peace to the Valley so that once again, people from all over the world come to visit this paradise on earth, his homeland. Let him regain it.
The country needs younger, forward-looking leaders. Old fuddy-duddies have miserably failed. Let young men like Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdullah, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora come forward to take the reins of the government in their firmer hands.
What they worry?
Kapil Sibal, a central minister, mailed a poem, ‘The Art of Denial’. Some excerpts:
Ajmal Kasab trained to be
A terrorist, Pakistani.
But Pakis say they do not know
We’ll have to prove if that is so.
His parents at Faridkot claim
This is our child the one they named.
Since then they have been whisked away
Where they are now? No one can say.
Be upfront, says Nawaz Sharif
Your version is beyond belief.
Denial of open access,
Why bar parents to meet the press?
House out of bounds most Indians feel
You’d rather have the truth concealed.
Your plea, government unfairly blamed....
....Non-State actors even if Pak
Their whereabouts cannot be tracked
Arrest, wanted Azhar Masood
Will vitiate our national mood
Arresting him would not be right
We have no means to extradite
The fallback is we are in doubt
Do not quite know his whereabouts
We did admit erroneously
That he is in our custody
If you question our honesty
Will deny his identity.
Forgiving terrorists is god’s job.
Fixing their appointments with god is our job.
(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal)