An already volatile atmosphere that has built up during the electoral battle all over the country has been made worse by National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah’s statement that Kashmir will not remain in India if the country becomes “communal”, hinting at this eventuality if the BJP’s Narendra Modi becomes prime minister.
Also, Mr Abdullah has chosen to pitch in on this at a time when the turnout at the poll in Anantnag, Kashmir, has been low at 28%, which is only marginally better than what it was in 2009.
Predictably, the BJP has responded bitterly by saying that if secularism has failed anywhere in India, it is in Kashmir, which the Kashmiri Hindus had to evacuate after the insurgency started there in 1989.
As an MP and a Union minister, Mr Abdullah has sworn to uphold the Constitution, which protects the unity and integrity of India. Hence, by making this statement, not also has Mr Abdullah violated the Constitution, he has chosen to appropriate the language of the militants. Moreover, Pakistan, which has been fairly reticent so far during this process of electioneering and has also indicated it is willing to do business with Mr Modi, may now spout venom, which can lead to disturbances in the Valley.
Non-State actors such as Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan may feel emboldened to carry on their anti-India tirade in the same way they did when Kashmiri students in a Meerut university were suspended for cheering for the Pakistan team in a cricket match.
What could Mr Abdullah mean by “communal India”? It is common experience that a party, represented by an ideology, is greater than an individual, and India has enough checks and balances in its institutions to ensure that no one can enforce communalism with ease. It needs stressing that the National Conference was once part of the NDA and Omar Abdullah was a minister in the Vajpayee government.
But also, it was at the same time — in the year 2000, when Mr Farooq Abdullah was chief minister — that the Jammu and Kashmir assembly passed a resolution favouring autonomy for the state.
This too had little validity, given the constitutional history of the state, which Mr Abdullah needs to acquaint himself with. Besides, his rashness can only make life difficult for his son, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is facing another electoral battle towards the end of the year. He should have come out to condemn his father’s statement, but unfortunately he did the opposite.