By Mohammad Ashraf Khwaja
During the heydays of European colonialism, ‘the beautiful valley of Kashmir inhabited by ugly Kashmiris’ was the standard signature of a European travel narrative about Kashmir. Nevertheless, no European traveller attributed the term ‘hypocrite’ to Kashmiris. One would presumably understand the lack of agency among colonial subjects in imagining their identities. The stereotyping of Kashmiri people was, therefore, understandable and unsurprising. However, it becomes particularly frustrating when the architects of ongoing agony in Kashmir, the indigenous brokers who mortgaged Kashmir’s newly won freedom, take patronizing roles in damning a whole population they pushed into servitude. It is like adding insult to injury. To be precise, Farooq Abdullah’s latest attribution of hypocrisy to Kashmiris is a flagrant display of chutzpah and shamelessness. Or, he has a poor sense of history. If hypocrisy is a trait characterized by double-standards, newspeak and Machiavellian instrumental use of everything, including morality and religion, the Sheikh Abdullah’s playboy son Farooq Abdullah merits to be called a ‘high-profile hypocrite’. He knows when to chant bhajans in order to make himself sound extra secular and liberal and sit in the front row of Eid prayers to authenticate his being part of the ostracized community. Like his father, he has mastered the art of displaying selective rage against Indian repressive policies in public platforms and at the same time defending the same state when talking to his political benefactors in Delhi. To keep himself afloat in public memory, he evokes controversies with his puerile antics. Every time a child is blinded by a pellet gun or a youth is hunted down by the security forces, he adds a dramatic tone to his plea for peace and vents anger at the murky Pakistani hand. He can’t address an issue head-on. That is because he can’t defend the indefensible deeds of his father and of himself. And yet Kashmiris are hypocrites!
Well, recently while paying tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi, Farooq Abdullah – the self-appointed true representative of moderate Islam in Kashmir – chanted ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ several times. Perhaps this was addressed to Nagpur. After all, he can’t allow Sajad Lone score more points in the show of loyalty towards the political dispensation at the Centre. This distasteful moment came with a sense of déjà vu. The other day he was heckled and forced to beat a hasty retreat before completing the Eid Namaz at Hazratbal dargah. When the tabloid journos sought his reaction, he termed Kashmiris ‘non-sense’, ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’ and ‘enemies of peace’. Abusing and accusing Kashmiris on India’s Republic TV is a highly profane act in Kashmir’s public imagination these days.
Who could forget Farooq Abdullah’s sensational claim when he said ‘Kashmir ko goli maro’ in July 2010 at a press conference in New Delhi? Then in March 2014, he termed Kashmiris as thieves (‘Kashmiri chor nhi maha chor hai’). In December 2016, it was the same Farooq Abdullah who while speaking to his party workers said, ‘I stand by the side of Hurriyat and urge my workers not to stay behind in Kashmir’s struggle’. His Machiavellian crafts don’t end here. In April 2017, he called the ‘stone pelters as nationalists who are fighting for the Kashmiri nation’. And now he calls Kashmiris stupid and senseless on Arnab’s Republic TV. All these brazen sides are recognized to none other than Farooq Abdullah.
One could rarely see Arnab Goswami listening so patiently to some of his panelists from Kashmir. Yet this time Farooq was heard off patiently because he served the perfect recipe to the loudmouth anchor: praising India extensively and speaking about Kashmiris in unpleasant terms. At a time when Kashmir bashing had become a great TRP earner in Indian jingoistic media, Farooq Abdullah’s venom against Kashmiris was a ‘welcome change’ for many in the corridors of power. Moreover, what was most striking in the whole show between these seemingly ‘ultra-nationalist Indians’ was that of Farooq’s repeated pleading to Arnab for his support to former in future. It seemed that NC president is likely to make some bargain with India to fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Mehbooba Mufti. At the end of the day, these sold-out Abdullahs and their followers should bear in mind that this is not a gullible generation whom Sheikh ditched, dumped and deserted. This is the generation of intifada and resistance that understands gimmickry and are unwilling to weaken the sentiment of dissent at any cost. His heckling is indicative of how difficult it is for mainstream politicians to run with the hare and hunt with the hound.
The humiliation of Farooq Abdullah at Hazratbal shrine marks the beginning of the demise of NC as a party which used this shrine as their bastion to consolidate their grip over people through trickery and doublespeak. The Hazratbal shrine which was considered by Abdullahs as their property and from its pulpit sold lies to the people is no more an unchallenged space to provide them legitimacy.
Bottom-line: The guarding of Sheikh Abdullah’s grave by police round the clock alludes to the fact that he was not an authentic leader of the native Kashmiris. He has neither been forgotten nor forgiven. Farooq could curry favours with New Delhi by his Kashmiri bashing rhetoric but can’t ensure his place in a public graveyard after death without police protection of his grave. What would be the consequences if he ever desires to be buried in a Shaheed mazar alongside 1931 martyrs whose legacy his tribe reclaims or those ‘violent, extremist Kashmiris’ whose 20 rounds of funerals would have made even Sheikh Abdullah jealous? The thought of it makes me smile.
Mohammad Ashraf Khwaja is a Doctoral Fellow at the Centre of Advanced Study in History at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He can be reached at email@example.com
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