first Posted Fri, 12/04/2009
Srinagar: unidentified gunmen critically wounded senior APHC leader, Fazl Haq Qureshi, this evening, in Srinagar when he was returning after Magrib Prayers in a local Masjid in Soura.KON
first Posted Fri, 12/04/2009
Srinagar: unidentified gunmen critically wounded senior APHC leader, Fazl Haq Qureshi, this evening, in Srinagar when he was returning after Magrib Prayers in a local Masjid in Soura.KON
first Posted Thu, 12/03/2009 – 16:19
Human Rights Group Releases Report
Srinagar, Dec 2-09: A human rights group Wednesday claimed to have found 2700 unmarked and mass graves containing bodies of 2943 people across 55 villages of north Kashmir districts of Kupwara, Varmul and Bandipora.
The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, a rights watchdog, released a preliminary report “Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves” in which the revelations were made.
Releasing the report, convenor of the Tribunal, Dr Angana P Chatterji said the graveyards investigated have bodies of those murdered in encounters and fake encounters from 1990 to 2009. “The graves include bodies of extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions, as well as massacres by the Indian military and paramilitary forces,” she said and added that of these graves 2373 (87.9 percent) were unnamed. “154 contained two bodies each and 23 contained more than two bodies. Within these 23 graves, the number of bodies ranged from 3 to 17.”
She said that post-death, the bodies of the victims were routinely handled by military, para-military and police personnel. “The bodies were then brought to secret graveyards by Kashmir police personnel. The graves were dug by local gravediggers and caretakers, buried individually when possible and specifically not en-mass, in keeping with Islamic religious sensibilities.”
The report has been already submitted to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the UN Commission on Involuntarily Disappearances, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Tribunal asked the state and the central governments to enable independent and transparent investigations into unknown, unmarked and mass graves, drawing upon varied, credible and international expertise, and institute an independent and transparent commission of inquiry. “There is bound to be a reasonable correlation between these graves and the people who have disappeared.”
“If the government of India is serious about Kashmir resolution, here is our call of action,” said Dr Chatterji, who teaches Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies.
The report has examined 50 alleged encounter killings by the troops. “Of these, 49 people were labelled militants/foreign insurgents by the security forces. However, the Tribunal found that 47 people were killed in fake encounters and only one was a local militant,” she added.
The report comes 19 months after the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP) released its report on nameless graves. Titled “Facts Under Ground”, the report gave details of 940 to 1000 nameless graves. The report was compiled after a two-year survey conducted by volunteers of the APDP in three tehsils, including Uri and Varmul in north Kashmir.
Flanked by human rights activists Guatam Navlakha, Pervez Imroz and Zahir-ud-Din, Dr Chatterji said these unmarked graves have been placed next to fields, schools and homes, largely on community land and their effect on the local community is daunting.
“If the independent investigations were to be undertaken in all 10 districts, it is reasonable to assume that 8000 disappearances since 1989 would correlate with the number of bodies in unknown, unmarked and mass graves,” she said. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir says there are 8000 people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance.
She said the photographs and the first information reports pertaining to those buried in unknown, unmarked, and mass graves across Jammu and Kashmir that are reportedly kept in police custody must be rendered into the public domain so that claimants may pursue their claim.
“The international community and institutions have not examined the supposition of crimes against humanity in J&K. The UN and its member states have remained ineffective in containing and halting the adverse consequences of the militarization,” she added.
ZULFIKAR MAJID-GK Source
Report: 2,600 bodies found in Kashmir graves
By AIJAZ HUSSAIN (AP) – 19 hours ago
SRINAGAR, India — Nearly 2,600 bodies have been discovered in single unmarked and mass graves throughout mountainous Indian Kashmir, human rights activists said Wednesday, alleging some of the dead were likely innocent people killed by security forces.
More than a dozen Kashmiri rebel groups have been fighting for independence from India or a union with predominantly Muslim Pakistan since 1989. Rights groups say there have been more than 8,000 disappearances since the rebellion began.
Researchers from the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, an Indian Kashmir-based rights group, said they found the graves in 55 villages during a three-year survey that concluded last month.
In a report titled “Buried Evidence” released Wednesday, the group documented 2,373 “unmarked and mass graves” containing nearly 2,600 bodies. It said 177 of the graves contained more than one body.
“We’re not saying who is in each grave. But we’re saying these are unnamed graves and its imperative to investigate the issue by an independent international body,” said Angna Chatterji, one of the group’s members.
The report also said it found evidence of 47 civilians being killed by security forces, who later claimed they were militants. Human rights workers have complained for years that innocent people have disappeared and been killed by government forces in staged gunbattles.
About 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the 20-year conflict.
Ali Mohammed Sagar, Indian-Kashmir’s law and parliamentary affairs minister, said Wednesday the government would respond to the report after reading it.
Indian authorities have dismissed widespread allegations of human rights abuses by the army, paramilitary and police in the region.
Officials have said in the past that many militants have been killed in fighting with security forces and bodies are often buried in unmarked graves.
The government also says most of those who have disappeared are young Kashmiris who crossed into neighboring Pakistani-controlled Kashmir for weapons training.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a mostly Muslim region divided between majority-Hindu India and Pakistan, but claimed by both in its entirety.
First Posted Fri, 11/27/2009 – 16:16
مظفر آباد:کل جماعتی حریت کانفرنس آزاد کشمیر کے کنو ینر اور جموں و کشمیر پیپلز فریڈم لیگ کے چئیرمین محمد فاروق رحمانی نے عید الا ضحیٰ کے موقعہ پر مبارکبا دی کے ایک پیغام میں کہا ہے کہ آج کا دِن اُمت مسلمہ کے لئے قربا نی‘ اخوت اور انسا نیت کا ایک لاجوا ب پیغام ہے ۔جس کے اندر آدمیت کے احترام کی رُوح جھلکتی ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ پاکستان کی سلا متی اور استحکام او پوری دنیا ئے اسلام کو مو جو دہ آزما ئشوں سے کامیابی کے ساتھ نکا لنے کے لئے اِسلام کے فلسفہ اِنسا نیت اور ابراہیمی شعار کے اپنا نے کی اہمیت بڑھ گئی ہے ۔ کشمیری عوام کی عظیم الشا ن جدوجہد اور قربا نیوں کو خرا ج تحسین پیش کر تے ہوئے انہوں نے کہا کہ حق خود ارادیت اور آزادی کا قو می مشن صبرو اِستقا مت اور انس انیت کا نصب العین ہے ۔ جو کشمیریوں اور دیگر مظلو م اقوا م کو اللہ کے فضل و کر م سے ضرور حا صل ہو گا اور ظالموں کو شکست بر شکست ملے گی
First Posted Wed, 11/25/2009
Srinagar, November 25 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, 2278 women were among 93089 civilians martyred during the last 20 years of unabated Indian state terrorism. According to a report released by the Research Section of Kashmir Media Service, today, on the occasion of “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”, Indian troops molested 9894 women during the period and the state terrorism rendered 22708 women widowed.
The report maintained that Kashmiri women had been the worst affectees of the harrowing conflict since 1989.
The report deplored that the troops had been routinely involved in sexual harassment of Kashmiri women to suppress the ongoing liberation struggle. The report said, women constitute a considerable number of mental patients, which is well over one hundred thousand, due to the violence perpetrated by Indian troops.
Srinagar, November 25-09 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, the residents of Bandipore have been rendered homeless, as the Indian troopers are occupied their residential houses for the past six years.
The residents of Bohtou in Bandipore while talking to media men said that in 2003 troopers of Rashtriya Rifles occupied four houses of Haji Ghulam Rasool Reshi and Haji Ghulam Nabi Reshi.
“I along with three other persons was taken by the 57- Rashtriya Rifles to their camp in Bohtou three years back. They forcibly took our signatures on white paper for occupation of our houses,” said Haji Ghulam Rasool Reshi.
“After the 57-Rashtriya Rifles left our houses on November 15, another regiment of army 3-Madras occupied our houses forcibly,” he added.
Reshi said that the troops had also damaged their other houses and nobody from the puppet administration was coming forward to pay compensation to them.
First Posted Fri, 11/20/2009 – 14:39
The United States is pushing India and Pakistan to finally solve their dispute over Kashmir to remove biggest obstacle to progress in the war on terror, a Kashmiri separatist leader has claimed.
By Dean Nelson and Jalees Andrabi in New Delhi
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, said there had been a flurry of activity between New Delhi, Washington and Islamabad to kick-start a new dialogue.
The dispute over Kashmir has blighted relations between India and Pakistan since their partition at independence in 1947, caused three wars between the two countries and an insurgency which has claimed more than 47,000 lives.
Mirwaiz was speaking after it emerged the Indian government has been holding secret talks with senior Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi to promote a new peace process.
According to Western diplomats, the Obama administration believes a settlement on Kashmir, or even a credible, inclusive peace process would allow Pakistan to focus its energies on fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in its tribal areas close to the Afghan border.
They said the heightened tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai last November led to a temporary rapprochement between Pakistani military chiefs and Taliban leaders which had caused alarm in London and Washington.
According to Mirwaiz, President Barack Obama’s aides now regard a Kashmir solution as an urgent priority, while U.S officials insist its policy – that it is not involved in mediation – has not changed.
“The peace in the region is directly and indirectly related to resolution of Kashmir dispute. The stage has passed when India objected to US mediation in solving the Kashmir issue. The Obama administration has fully realised that the resolution of Kashmir issue is pivotal in bringing peace to the region,” he said.
“When I met President Zardari in September in New York, he told me [U S Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan] Richard Holbrooke’s mandate is Kashmir although it is not very much open. He is coming to Delhi and Islamabad not to talk about Afghanistan but Kashmir,” he added.
The dialogue will be based on proposals made by Pakistan’s former military ruler General Musharraf in 2006, under which Islamabad would renounce its claim on Kashmir if Indian forces withdrew from the state and introduced self-government and joint monitoring between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders.
source Telegraph UK
18 Nov 2009
First Posted Fri, 11/20/2009
India/USA: November 18, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama,President of the United States
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of Amnesty International USA, I urge you to candidly address human rights concerns in India during your upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and to press him to make substantive improvements. Prime Minister Singh will be the first leader to receive a state visit at the White House after you became the President. While you are honoring him with this state visit, Amnesty International urges you not to forget the plight of women, men and children who are facing numerous human rights abuses in India and to make public statements emphasizing that human rights are central to US-India relations.
Your meeting with Prime Minister Singh in the White House represents an opportunity for you to directly communicate your concerns about human rights in India. While you discuss economic cooperation and civilian nuclear partnership with the Indian Prime Minister, it is vital that you also raise human rights concerns affecting millions of Indian citizens. Amnesty International strongly urges you to include human rights concerns in India in your joint communiqué with the Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh and to address human rights concerns during your joint press conference with Prime Minister Singh.
Even though India is the world’s largest democracy, serious and disturbing human rights abuses are ongoing, including rape, extrajudicial executions, deaths in police and military custody, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, and dowry deaths. The Government of India not only fails to prevent these abuses, but also shelters members of security forces from facing justice. People living in several of the northeastern states of India and in Kashmir, religious minorities, those belonging to the lowest social order called “Dalits”, and indigenous communities called “adivasis” face the brunt of these abuses. Other socially and economically marginalized groups including women face discrimination at the hands of the police and criminal justice system. Although laws were passed to address some of these human rights abuses, serious concerns remain about the implementation of such laws.
Some of the specific contexts in which mass abuses were or continue to be committed include:
Mass killings of Sikhs: Over three thousand Sikhs were massacred when the governing Congress Party incited mob violence targeting Sikh civilians in reaction to the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Scores of women were gang raped and some were burnt alive. After two decades, a judicial commission concluded that members of the governing Congress Party were involved. Twenty five years have passed since the massacre, but only a few have been brought to justice for this mass killing.
Mass killings of Muslims: In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in Gujarat as a reaction to a train fire that killed 59 Hindus. This train fire was blamed on Muslims. Hindu mobs allegedly incited by state Bharatiya Janata Party members went on a killing spree targeting Muslims. Several hundred Muslim women and girls were gang raped and some were burnt alive. Pregnant women and children were also targeted. After nine years, very few individuals have been brought to justice.
Bhopal tragedy: Several thousand people have died and many more continue to die from a 1984 gas leak at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1984. Twenty five years have passed since the leak occurred, but the plant site has not been cleaned up and toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and ground water. Tens of thousands continue to live with debilitating illnesses. Despite numerous efforts, survivors continue to be denied adequate compensation, medical help, rehabilitation, and justice.
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958: The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 has remained in effect in “disturbed areas,” including Kashmir and large parts of the northeastern states of India for over forty years. This act is a major contributor to mass human rights abuses in these areas of India. This law protects Indian security forces from prosecution by requiring permission to prosecute from India’s Central Government–permission which is rarely given. As a result, security forces often take the law into their own hands and commit mass human rights abuses against the civilians. This law has facilitated grave human rights abuses, including “disappearances,” rapes, extrajudicial executions, and deaths resulting from torture.
Northeastern States: One of the areas “hidden” from international attention is the region of northeast India. Numerous abuses are taking place in this area, largely facilitated by the above-mentioned Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958. Security forces kill, rape, “disappear” and commit other gross human rights abuses with virtual impunity.
Kashmir: The Indian side of Kashmir is another area where Indian Security forces commit mass human rights abuses with impunity. Once again, the abuses are facilitated by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 and other similar laws. The civilian population of Kashmir has paid a high price for the conflict. Thousands have disappeared over the years.
Abuses against “Dalits”: India’s caste system involves a social hierarchy in which individuals are considered to be born into a particular caste in which they remain throughout their lives. Outside these caste categories are the “untouchables”, now commonly known as “Dalits”, whose occupations — sweepers, tanners, sanitation workers, etc — are viewed as “polluting” the community. Nearly 200 million people in India belong to this category. This system has been called India’s “hidden apartheid.” Abuses against “dalits” are numerous and take many different forms, including: parading of naked Dalit women through the streets, socioeconomic discrimination, killings, arson-burning of Dalit communities, gang rape, bonded labor, denial of land rights, and many more. The police and the criminal justice system also discriminate against Dalits. Though important strides have been made, much remains to be done.
Abuses against “Adivasis”: The indigenous communities called adivasis face immense pressure from dam and mining development projects and settlements. Adivasis face socioeconomic discrimination as well as discrimination by the police and the criminal justice system.
Mr. President, Amnesty International urges you to secure a meaningful commitment from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to improve India’s human rights situation. It is essential that human rights be treated as an important issue like trade and civilian nuclear partnership.
At a minimum, we urge you to press Prime Minister Singh to take the following steps:
Chhattisgarh: Ensure protection of civilians in ongoing and proposed military actions against Maoists-Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and other states. Stop harassing and arresting human rights defenders. Maoists must also end their violence against civilians.
Kashmir/Manipur: End impunity and make armed forces personnel accountable for human rights violations. In particular repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur and other parts of the North Eastern States and Kashmir where imposed. Ensure that any replacement act is in line with international human rights standards.
Justice: Bring to justice those involved in the mass killings of Sikhs and Muslims.
Bhopal: Ensure establishment of the promised empowered Commission on Bhopal for the rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas victims, with adequate resources and capacity. In conjunction with the companies involved (including US based Dow Chemical), the Government of India should ensure effective measures to address the long-term impacts of the Bhopal gas leak, including proper clean-up and remediation of the factory site, medical care, regular supply of adequate safe water for the affected communities, and economic rehabilitation.
And with regard to India’s foreign policy:
Mr. President, we also urge you to discuss India’s International role and to urge India to use its close relationships with Burma and Sri Lanka to:
Burma: Urge Prime Minister Singh to engage with the Burmese authorities to end serious and systematic human rights violations and to release over 2,100 political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.
Sri Lanka: Urge Prime Minister Singh to follow up on the promise made by the Sri Lanka Government to India that it would release the IDP’s within six months. Six months have passed, but still there are tens of thousands of civilians detained in military run internment camps. Secure access to an estimated 12,000 people (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE who have been detained. They have been denied access to ICRC and legal counsel.
Mr. President, we urge you not to miss this opportunity to speak for those whose rights have been violated in India. They need your help.
First Posted Fri, 11/13/2009
Muzaffarabad: Muhammad Farooq Rehmani Convener All Parties Hurriyat Conference and Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Freedom League has in a press statement here today expressed profound grief and sorrow over the sad demise of Prof.
Ghulam Muhammad Shaikh, who was a dedicated freedom fighter and had served the freedom movement of Kashmir in the prime of his youth and afterwards in different capacities in Jammu and Kashmir. Paying tribute to his services, Muhammad Farooq Rehmani said the Kashmiris associated with the movement of Kashmir would never forget their sincere and honest sons of the soil. In his message of condolence to the bereaved family he prayed to God to rest the departed soul in paradise and give his family and friends enough of patience to face the vacuum created by his demise.
Islamabad, November 11-2009 (KMS): The Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Freedom League (JKPFL), Muhammad Farooq Rehmani has strongly condemned the arrest of the party Chief Organiser, Altaf Ahmad Khan in occupied Kashmir.
Muhammad Farooq Rehmani in a statement expressed serious concern over the use of brute force by a secret Indian agency and its local agents against the party leader. He said that the Indian agency and its paid local agents were threatening Altaf Khan for some months, urging him to resign from the party or face dire consequences. “Now he has not only been arrested, but the secret Indian agents are perpetrating upon him both mental and physical torture to eliminate him”, he deplored.
Islamabad 08 Nov, 2009: A seminar to pay tribute to lakhs of the martyrs of Jammu on their 63 anniversary was held in Sialkot city by the Jammu Kashmir Freedom movement (a constituent of Hurriyat Conference), leading citizens of the city and All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which was attended by hundreds of the inhabitants of Sialkot on 6 November. It was presided over by Khaja Zaka-ul-din chairman Kashmir Aid Program. Welcome banners in honor of the central leaders of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Azad Kashmir in the city gave a charming look to the city. Muhammad Farooq Rehmani Convener All Parties Hurriyat Conference AJK, Ghulam Muhammad Safi, Ishtiyaq Hamid, Abdul Majeed Mir, Muhammad Hussain Khateeb, Shawkat Husain Butt, Muhammad Sultan, Showkat wani, and Prof Ashraf Saraf in their speeches paid a handsome tribute to the martyrs of Jammu in their speeches. They urged the people to reaffirm their pledge to continue their support to the freedom struggle of Kashmir till its success.
Muhammad Farooq Rehmani Convener APHC (AJK) termed the day of massacre of Jammu Muslims as the blackest day of history. He said the heinous crime of human rights violations by communalist Hindus, their bloody organizations, and Maharaja’s Doogra soldiers took place with the connivance of Indian military and Maharaja of Kashmir. He said that 6 November 1947, the day of massacre of Muslims of Jammu was a joint day of Pakistan and the Muslims of Jammu, because those lakhs of Muslims who were butchered en-mass and women who were slaughtered or kidnapped along with their children were first of all asked by the Hindu communalists and the government of Maharaja that they would be sent to Pakistan. But instead of sending them toPakistan, they were slaughtered mercilessly. He said that the sacrifices of the Jammu Muslims were unmatched and unforgettable. He said that the souls of martyrs could be satisfied only when Pakistan would become strong and Jammu andKashmir would be wrested from the illegal occupation of India. Even today Kashmiris were rendering great sacrifices to achieve the right to self determination, he remarked. On this occasion Ghulam Muhammad Safi offered suggestions of unity between different political parties to establish peace, security and stability in country. This noble mission should begin from Sialkot—the birthplace of our national poet—Philosopher Allama Iqbal.
The seminar was addressed by Khawja zaka ul din chairman Kashmir aid program, Dr. Zahid Ghani Dar Convener Jammu andKashmir Freedom Movement, Haji Aftab Hussian Qadri, Ameer Jamate Islami Sialkot, Haji Muhammad Akbar and others paidtribute to the martyrs of Jammu and reassured their support to the freedom struggle of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, Muhammad Farooq Rehmani and Ghulam Muhammad Safi addressed a Press conference and answered to the Questions of media representatives, making it clear that the current situation of Kashmir indicates that the resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions and India-Pakistan and international promises has become unavoidable. It was emphasized that to over come impediments in the way of military pull-out from J&K and repeal of black laws, a tripartite conference by India, Pakistanand Kashmir was of paramount importance. A resolution adopted on the occasion said given the sacrifices of the present generation of Kashmiris the illegal Indian occupation was unacceptable to the People of Kashmir.
Posted Fri, 11/06/2009 Muzamil Jaleel
If history lives in a generational memory, the most important chapter of Kashmir’s story revolves around the Abdullah family, whose successes and failures have impacted the destiny of Kashmir and its people for a century now.
The story begins from Soura in the outskirts of Srinagar city where Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was born in the fall of 1905 to ashawl trader on the banks of Anchar Lake. Abdullah was the youngest among nine siblings and was born two weeks after his father’s death. He was given the name of his great grand father – a Kashmiri Brahmin who had converted to Islam under the influence a Sufi Mir Abdul Rashid Baihaqi in 1766.
In his autobiography “Aatish-e-Chinar (Flames of the Chinar), Sheikh recalled a difficult childhood spent in penury. As a child, he had to walk 10 miles a day to attend school and worked with a grocer to support his family. Abdullah recounted his dream to join medical school, and later an ambition to go abroad for studies, which was thwarted because of the discriminatory policies against Muslims during the Dogra rule in Kashmir. Still Abdullah became one of the only few Kashmiri Muslim men, who fought and managed to proceed for higher education. At 25, when he returned to the valley from Aligarh Muslim University after completing masters in Chemistry, Sheikh’s personal contact with discrimination during his student years and later in finding a job was so bitter that his entire worldview was shaped by it. His mother Khair-un-Nissa and a Sufi, Akhun Mubarak Shah – who taught him Quran in a maktab – had a major influence on Sheikh. “My earliest memories are of my mother sitting on the praying mat,” Abdullah recollected in his autobiography. “I always wanted to follow her footsteps”. In a half a century long public life, Abdullah’s speeches would always begin with the recitation of the Quran.
From the reading roomparty in downtown Srinagar’s Fatehkadal to the establishment of the Muslim Conference, Sheikh primarily fought for the liberation of Kashmiri Muslims from Dogra rule. His politics changed drastically when Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan introduced him to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937. On June 24, 1938, Sheikh renamed the Muslim Conference the ‘National Conference’, thus paving the way for people from other communities to join Kashmir’s freedom movement. In fact, Sheikh credits Nehru for his shift to secular politics.
This led to fissures in his party and questions were raised about his leadership. The Muslim leadership of Jammu, like Choudhary Ghulam Abbas and the Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah (the grand uncle of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq), resisted this change and parted ways with Sheikh. This division widened when Sheikh turned a nationalist Kashmiri discourse as the central ideology of the National Conference, drifting further away from his initial Muslim-centric discourse. The ideological split became evident during Partition. Sheikh rejected the two-nation theory and instead favoured a special status for J&K within a secular India.
His friendship with Nehru and his dislike for Jinnah’s politics was one reason for his decision not to go with Pakistan. The other was his fear of Punjabi Muslim dominance over Kashmir. His ideological opponents, however, favoured the Muslim League discourse–an unresolved issue that still continues to haunt Kashmir.
Though Sheikh’s political agenda was clear, his sudden shift towards secularism had confused his party which found it hard to merge its basic Kashmiri Muslim discourse into the larger secular Kashmiri nationalist identity. In fact, this confusion has been at the core of every political debacle of the party.
In October 1933, Sheikh married Akbar Jehan, the daughter of a European hotelier Michael Harry Nedou – who too played an important role in Kashmir politics. This wedding was a major political event with well-known revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz playing an important role in the nikaah. The couple had seven children–two of them died as infants. Sheikh’s oldest child Khalida, whom he was closest to, would later become part of a protracted family feud over the issue of the NC’s leadership after his death. Her husband Ghulam Mohammad Shah was instrumental in an overnight coup against her brother Farooq Abdullah’s government on July 2, 1984, when he broke the NC and took over power with the Congress’s support. The family is still split over this incident.
The twists and turns in the personal relationship between the Abdullahs and the Nehru-Gandhi family too have influenced the politics of Kashmir and its relations with both New Delhi and Islamabad. Every time the Congress and the NC struck an alliance, it was because of the personal friendship between the two families. The coalition, however, always ended on a sour note.
While Sheikh didn’t want Kashmir to go with Pakistan in 1947, he largely relied on his friendship with Nehru to get a special status within the Indian Union even as he sought a plebiscite to ratify the Maharaja’s accession treaty with New Delhi. After the Indo-Pak war in October 1947, Sheikh openly supported New Delhi.
The Delhi agreement of 1952 is seen as the first political compromise by Sheikh and his party to safeguard the special status of Kashmir within the Indian Union but it created suspicions on both sides.
Sheikh recalls that when Nehru visited Srinagar on May 16, 1953, he was “not the same man”. This was the first visible sign of bitterness in the friendship, which ended two months later with Nehru ordering Sheikh’s dismissal and arrest. Sheikh’s party soon revived its demand for a plebiscite, returned to Muslim centric discourse and waged a struggle that lasted till 1970.
The bitterness between the Sheikh and Nehru went away only after the latter’s death. Sheikh became close to Nehru’s daughter, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and in 1975, the Indira-Abdullah accord was signed, paving Sheikh’s way to power. But he never accepted an open alliance with the Congress in J&K.
The Congress party soon decided to withdraw its support. But Sheikh returned to power in a historic election in 1977, one of the fairest polls ever held in Kashmir. He owed his impressive win more to his personality than to his politics. The opposition from the Jana Sangh and the Congress had only boosted his popularity and the NC once again became the keeper of Kashmir’s regional pride. On August 21, 1981, Sheikh anointed his son Farooq to lead the National Conference. Sheikh died a year later on September 7, 1982, and the National Conference and Kashmir’s history changed.
Twenty-seven years after Sheikh’s death, there have been generational shifts in National Conference and both the party and the Abdullah family have changed in complexion and discourse. What Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah – eulogized as the Lion of Kashmir – began on June, 24, 1938 when he changed the name of his political party from Muslim Conference to National Conference with an aim to turn its discourse secular and widen its ambit to embrace other communities has today finally led to a total change within the Abdullah family too. Today, Abdullahs are one of the only few top political families of India who are multi-religious – tied to other communities through blood and marriage. And for the first time, the Abdullah family is not only ruling J-K but has a significant presence in the Union cabinet too.
While Omar Abdullah is J-K Chief minister, his brother -in-law Sachin Pilot and father Farooq Abdullah are in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.
And as Farooq Abdullah’s younger brother Mustafa Kamal won the by-election from Hazratbal assembly constituency recently, there is every likelihood that he too will soon become part of Omar’s cabinet.
Farooq Abdullah – care free and controversial
When Farooq Abdullah was sworn in as the Union minister for renewable energy recently, it was seen as too small an assignment for a politician who had spent three stints as Chief minister of J-K in his 30 year long active political career that began with his successful Lok Sabha election in 1980. But Abdullah family was happy. For Farooq, there was nothing left to do in Srinagar where his only son Omar Abdullah was now leading an NC-Congress alliance government. In fact, his presence in Kashmir had created a parallel power centre, which was becoming detrimental to the coalition government led by Omar. The father had won simultaneously from two assembly constituencies during 2008 assembly polls and the party’s old guard was interested to see him as the Chief minister. His carefree reputation and subtle opposition from Congress high command had paved way for Omar. The issue did not lead to an open confrontation. Instead, the matter was amicably resolved within the family when Farooq’s wife Molly Abdullah finally pushed for the generational shift. This transition was apparently free from trouble but a close scan through the proceedings ahead of the announcement of Omar’s candidature for the Chief ministership were tumultuous. Farooq made his ambition to become Chief minister public twice. Sources reveal that while Omar’s sisters remained neutral in this battle for the top job within family, one of them was favouring the father to retain the position.
In fact, Farooq said that he was never in favour of Omar to join politics. “When I planned to join politics, my father had advised me to stay away,” he remembered. “I wanted to fight (election) for the parliament and he (Sheikh) warned me of difficulties in politics – he said there is no family life and I don’t want your children to go through the same hell that you and your siblings went through while I was away”. Farooq said he recalls his father’s words vividly. “He told me once you jump into this river – you either flow with it or fight the current, you can never get out of the river,” he recalled.
“That was so true”. He said like his father, he too advised Omar against joining politics. “But like me, he too didn’t listen to his father,” he said.
Farooq Abdullah – who now lives alone in a bungalow in Teen Murti Lane in Delhi – remembered a conversation with his wife about Omar. “I once told his (Omar’s) mother that one day he may want to join politics. She was furious and threatened that it will only happen over her dead body. Several years later when he (Omar) decided to join politics, I told my wife, you better tell him as he is not ready to listen to me,” he said. “Then he had taken a decision and I could do nothing but support him”. Omar Abdullah, however, said that this is a conversation only his father recollects. “My mother is not sure of it. She says she doesn’t remember any such conversation,” he said.
“But we tend to give dad the benefit of doubt”. Farooq Abdullah insisted that he had not imagined that Omar would be interested in politics. “I thought he will set up a business and live a normal life especially after he joined a business administration course,” he said.
After shifting to New Delhi, Farooq Abdullah seems to have gone into a shell. He visits Nizamuddin dargah several times every week and spends a lot of time sitting alone in his living room, watching television. “My family comes to visit me during the winters. We have a house in UK and my wife takes care of it. Then my daughter Henna lives close by with her daughters,” he said. Do you feel lonely here? “At times yes,” he said and there was a long pause. “But then there is a lot of work. I am taking my new assignment very seriously. I want to understand the work in this ministry. You won’t believe, it’s a lot of work”. Farooq said that he does not interfere with Omar’s work. “I pray for him and hope God gives him humility to treat people with respect and dignity,” he said. “That’s the only way, he will succeed”.
He said that his home and family is split in different places. “I am happy that one of my daughter lives close by here in Delhi,” he said, referring to Sara Pilot. “I meet her often”. Farooq said he has already given his farm house at Tangmarg to his elder daughter Safia who is married in a Kashmiri family in Srinagar. “The family’s Srinagar and Jammu house will go to Omar. And our house in England will go to my daughter Henna who is living there with her dentist husband and two little daughters,” he said. Farooq said he wanted his youngest daughter to become a doctor. “But she refused flatly. She instead studied psychology,” he said.
Sheikh Mohamamd Abdullah had remained an undisputed leader of Kashmir and in his life National Conference was undefeatable and united even when New Delhi orchestrated a major split in 1953. His son Farooq, however, courted controversy as soon as he took over as the J-K Chief minister. A young doctor, Farooq had settled in UK where he had met and married a British nurse, Molly Abdullah. He had returned home a few years ahead of Sheikh’s death and successfully contested parliamentary elections. With his health deteriorating, Sheikh had brought Farooq into his cabinet too. And when Sheikh anointed Farooq as the president of National Conference in 1981 in a massive public rally, it was a clear and loud signal that Sheikh had made a choice for his political heir apparent. Farooq’s ascent to take over as Chief minister was ostensibly smooth but the seeds of discord had already been sown with Sheikh’s son-in-law, G.M. Shah, an influential leader within the NC, wanting to take over the party. Shah didn’t have to wait too long.
Why did your father choose you and not any senior NC leader to succeed him? “There were several factors. I was young and without any labels of corruption. I was also not linked to any lobby within the party. I was clean and idealistic. Then Shah sahib (Farooq’s estranged brother-in-law, who died recently) had a very bad temper,” Farooq said. “He (Sheikh) saw my energy and thought I will take forward his legacy. I tried my level best. I relentlessly fought for the restoration of Kashmir’s honour and dignity”.
The assembly election was scheduled for June 1983 and Indira Gandhi offered an NC-Congress alliance. Farooq didn’t agree because he felt that such a coalition would jeopardise his party base in Kashmir. The two families split again, leading to a bitter poll fight, which saw Indira Gandhi campaigning for 10 days against the NC in the Valley.
Farooq won the election but the Congress managed to get 26 seats–24 of them in Jammu alone. Riding on his poll success, Farooq took on Indira Gandhi and the Congress in national politics and turned the NC into an important constituent of a national front against the Congress. In October 1983, Farooq organised an impressive conclave of 59 leaders of 17 non-Congress parties in Srinagar to discuss Centre-State relations. By this time Farooq had expelled his brother-in-law G.M. Shah from the NC. Shah launched a party called the real National Conference with his wife and Farooq’s older sister Khalida as president. Farooq’s brother Tariq too joined this new party. In July 1983, Indira Gandhi managed to dislodge the Farooq Abdullah government. Thirteen NC legislators defected and G.M. Shah formed a new government with the support of the Congress.
This was the beginning of a revolt in Kashmir–the ouster of the NC government was seen as New Delhi’s assault on Kashmir’s pride. But unlike Sheikh’s dismissal in 1953, the unceremonious exit from power had a different effect on Farooq. He started believing that real power came from New Delhi; not through elections. . “I felt I was too idealistic. I realized that the people you are fighting for do not have guts to stand behind you. I realized I was fighting a lonely war – that’s why I changed my tactics,” Farooq admitted. “Mein nay zakham khayay hain – zakham deyai nahien hain (I have been given wounds – I have never given wounds anyone). I have reached to one conclusion now – everything is in the hands of God and I leave everything to God alone”.
Shah’s government was dismissed in early 1986 and Rajiv Gandhi brought the Abdullah-Nehru families closer. Farooq was sent to lead an official Haj delegation. The Congress wanted a poll alliance and later that year, Farooq finally agreed. The two parties forged a pre-poll alliance during the 1987 assembly polls. Abdullah’s decision to go with the Congress hit his credibility in Kashmir. A rigged poll managed to see the alliance through in the assembly election but in the process, it pushed Kashmir towards a violent separatist revolt.
The Muslim United Front–an umbrella group of various political and religious parties that had emerged as the main opposition to the NC-Congress alliance–bid goodbye to the ballot and became a separatist conglomerate.
Farooq said he tried his level best to patch up with his estranged sister Khalida and her husband G M Shah. “We met at the funeral of Mohideen Shah sahib (another NC stalwart) few years ago and I told them enough is enough now – lets get together. They agreed and we decided to form a committee with members from our party and their party,” he said. “But they put such difficult conditions, which were impossible to accept. I am sad about it. My sister was very dear to Sheikh sahib. But now she has become extremely bitter. Shah sahib passed away. She will die with that bitterness and it hurts me”.
Is Farooq Abdullah a carefree, colourfull and non-serious politician ? “I have never liked alcohol – never smoked. I do like my golf once in a while that’s it,” he said. “But I know why? My detractors have created this perception over the years. Then I had bad luck too.
Shabana ji (Azmi) came and sat on my motorcycle and I could never clear myself from that one incident. That image stuck with me”. In fact, Omar too seems to have inherited his dad’s attraction of motorcycles. He has a dirt bike and loves to ride it once in while away from public gaze. In the first week as Chief minister, Omar Abdullah was so hassled by the intense security blanket encircling him that he threatened his security officials to cut down the size of the cavalcade or he would take off alone on his motorcycle.
Farooq said that he was never a big party person either. “Perhaps I was not uptight enough and didn’t lie to hide my personal life. But all that’s now irrelevant. I am getting older,” he said. “I am diabetic and hypertensive. I am now playing my last innings – I have lived my life on my own terms”.
What did he think about his children marrying out of Kashmir and the community? Did it have any implications on the NC politics within Kashmir? “My mother, my sisters and brothers, everyone was against these marriages,” he said. “With Omar I had a choice – I could have prevented him. But then I knew he would have married in England and ended up like me – living an entire life with a divided family. I decided to let him marry a woman he loves and stay here with his family together. And then it was his decision and his responsibility –
I didn’t want to be blamed if anything went wrong”. He said that it was a similar situation for him when Sara decided to marry Sachin Pilot. “I would have lost my daughter,” he said. “I didn’t want that. Thank God, we are a happy family now. My children are happily married and I am a grand father”.
The NC returned to power in 1996 with a two-thirds majority, but this time the circumstances were different. Farooq’s party, as well as his government, was seen as agents of New Delhi in Kashmir rather than the representatives of Kashmiri aspirations. This mistrust of the NC and its leadership in Kashmir was further strengthened when Farooq decided to join the BJP-led NDA at the Centre. Abdullah’s decisions had completely eroded NC’s traditional base within Kashmir. The party passed the historic autonomy resolution but again failed to stand up when the centre summarily rejected it. “We had decided to leave. But then my mother died and they all came. From Prime minister Vajpayee, Advani and others, everyone was here. They requested me not to leave NDA and promised to consider our resolution favourably,” Farooq said. “It was a mistake to trust them. I was not scared of losing my government. I am used to dismissals – they have done it enough times. But then I know we can achieve nothing if we confront the central government”.
Omar Abdullah – “Serious, Loner, Family man – everything that’s not his father”:
OMAR Abdullah joined politics soon after National Conference returned to power in 1996 with a thumping majority. “I was away for a long time for my schooling. Then the trouble started here and it was not a good time to contemplate a career in politics,” he said. “It was always at the back of my mind but I thought of it seriously only once we won 1996 elections”. Omar said that he never attended any of his grand father’s political rally. “I remember going with him to Eid gah for namaz. He would lead the prayers. I vividly remember that,” he said. “He (Sheikh) never talked to me about politics, perhaps because I was too young then. But I do remember going to my grand mother’s rally when he contested for parliament perhaps in 84”. He said that as a child we were surrounded by politics and would pick it up in bits and pieces. “Every evening, the family would assemble at my grand father’s house. Everyone – my dad’s sisters and brothers and our cousins would be there – and lot of conversation would revolve around politics,” he said.
Junior Abdullah has spent so much of his childhood away from Kashmir that he didn’t even learn Kashmiri – something that became a major issue of opposition criticism when he made a plunge into politics. “I don’t regret it. There is no reason to regret anything in life. I can speak Kashmiri now,” he said.
Omar was first made president of the NC’s youth wing and in 1998 was fielded as the party’s candidate for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Omar won the election but he was completely at odds with Kashmir politics. He joined the BJP led Central government as a minister of State. These political decisions had turned NC and its government very unpopular and led to the emergence of PDP as a potent force in Kashmir. In the 2002 assembly polls, the PDP won 16 constituencies. The NC had got 28 seats but the party had clearly lost the mandate to rule Kashmir. Omar, who had been anointed NC president earlier that year, lost the Abdullah bastion–the Ganderbal constituency. Over the last six years, Omar tried his best to get out of his father’s shadow. The party not only snapped ties with the NDA, Abdullah Jr publicly apologised several times for not leaving them earlier. With pressure from the PDP’s radical politics, Omar too re-positioned the party. Unlike his father, he tried to show a reconciliatory tone towards separatists and Pakistan. He made human rights violations a party issue and even promised to upgrade its autonomy demand to “autonomy plus” which would ensure greater role for Pakistan.
Omar’s personality is as different from his father as is his working style. He is very much a family man, preferring to spend time with wife Payal (whom he married in 1994) and their two sons – Zamir and Zahir. After taking over as CM, Omar is separated from his family, who live in Delhi and where his children go to school. Omar, however, has been regularly taking time off to spend time with his family in Delhi – something that has already become an issue of criticism with the opposition.
Omar is a big technology buff and loves his Mac. He has put up a Mac desktop in his office while he carries his 17 inch Mac pro laptop everywhere. In fact, he uses his black berry to take notes during official meetings, which too has become a topic of gossip among his senior colleagues and bureaucrats who think he keeps on fiddling with his phone rather than being attentive in the meetings.
Though the code of conduct in view of the Lok Sabha polls hampered the functioning of the government, Omar Abdullah has not taken any concrete measures as yet exhibiting his intent. Now all eyes are on Omar’s much awaited cabinet expansion and the formation of his core team that he had promised soon after his poll victory.
When asked whether any one among his sisters is interested in joining politics, he said he does not think so. He said he is trying to base his politics on the ideals of his grand father. “What we are focusing on is the continuation of things that were set in motion by Sheikh sahib after 1975 accord. It was massively endorsed by people subsequently,” he said. “I have been listening to Tang sahib (Sheikh’s biographer) and learning about his (Sheikh’s) life and politics”.
Omar does not want to talk about his personal life, marriage or the decisions he made before joining politics. “Our opposition consistently tried to raise these personal issues but people did not pay any heed to it during several elections now,” he said. “And I don’t want to talk about it”.
Omar Abdullah’s relationship with his father has been interesting.
While dad Abdullah’s kitchen cabinet in Kashmir is virtually out of bounds at Omar’s house, he has avoided any public disagreement other than during a live television chat show soon after the results of assembly polls were announced. In fact, Omar and the family convinced Farooq Abdullah to first be nominated for Rajya Sabha and then contest for Lok Sabha from Omar’s erstwhile Srinagar constituency. Farooq Abdullah won the Lok Sabha polls and subsequently resigned from the two assembly constituencies he had won earlier. Farooq’s entry into the Union cabinet has closed the chapter and now Omar is single handedly running the coalition with the Congress in the state. But if Omar fails to deliver, the return of Farooq to Kashmir cannot be ruled out. How will Omar react to such an eventuality only time will determine.
The Son-in-Law – Sachin Pilot keeps his Kashmir connection apolitical:
The lawns of Pilot’s official residence in South Delhi is packed with people from his constituency. He has become a minister for the first time recently and his supporters are lining up to congratulate him. Inside his small office, the life size portraits of his father Rajesh Pilot are everywhere. “Obviously, my contact with Kashmir has been through my father. His involvement with Kashmir has been very very long,” he said. “He had been going there right from mid eightees and I used to accompany him. Now I have family in Kashmir and I have made a clear distinction between my politics and family. I think it is very important to make that difference”.
How do you feel that your father-in-law too is part of the council of ministers with you and your brother-in-law is the Chief minister of J-K? “Dr Abdullah is there in the Union cabinet because he is a senior politician who has been three times Chief minister . This time alone he won two assembly elections, a Rajya Sabha seat and then Lok Sabha election. I have known him since I was eight or nine years old.
He is very easy to get along with. He is a likeable personality both as politician as well as father-in-law,” he said. “Omar is a focused individual. As a politician, he represents change and as of today, he is the youngest Chief minister in the country. He has made his place in politics and has changed the face of politics in Kashmir. And all of us are doing our jobs. We have our families and are happy. We don’t think of anything beyond that”. He said his background too has been political which makes it easier. “My mother too has contested elections. This is my second term. My father was in politics all through,” he said.
Did your marriage into Abdullah family become an issue in Rajasthan, especially as you are also into identity politics? “I am sure someone somewhere must have tried. There are small minded people out there too. Initially, our detractors tried to raise it in newspapers but the response was devastating for them. People (of Rajasthan) accepted Sara as their bahu (daughter-in-law) and treated her like a daughter,” he said. “I have a firm belief that these faultlines cannot be exploited any longer. Development, delivery and transparency are the real mantras of Indian politics now”.
Source Indian Express