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    Separatist and Communal Politics of National Conference


    Separatist and Communal Politics of National Conference

    Brig Anil Gupta

    The remarks of a NC legislator on the floor of the upper house stating, “Kashmiri youth have picked up guns and they will continue to do so in future” and glorification of a dreaded terrorist Burhan Wani who was killed by the Security Forces in an encounter as a ‘martyr' has sparked a unavoidable controversy. The legislator has only expressed his sentiments guided by the ideology of the political party he represents. Only recently the NC patron and five-time ex-Chief Minister of the state and former Union Minister in the UPA government Farooq Abdullah had openly supported the conglomeration of anti-national, separatist and secessionist parties “Hurriyat Conference” and urged it to continue the secessionist movement. He expressed willingness to work with Hurriyat for resolution of Kashmir. He urged the Hurriyat leadership to unite and assured them, “We are not your enemy. We are with you.” This statement came at a time when Kashmir was limping to normalcy after a full summer of unrest and Bandhs. The NC leaders have been openly advocating a dialogue with Pakistan at the time when Pakistan is not only perpetrating terror but also killing innocent civilians through unprovoked violations of ceasefire. Ever since its birth National Conference has followed the policy of ‘promoting Muslim precedence' and supported ethnic exclusion by using Muslim majority character of Kashmir to supress other communities and keep it isolated from rest of thus encouraging separatism.

    The tallest leader of National Conference Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was arrested under the orders of his friend-cum-mentor Jawahar Lal Nehru on the charges of secession in 1953. After his arrest Plebiscite Front had kept the secessionist sentiments alive in Kashmir. Apart from exposing post-1947 Kashmiris to the separatist ideology it could not achieve much. Farooq Abdullah, the eldest son of Sheikh, migrated to United Kingdom. He during his decade long sojourn in London worked as an activist of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), an anti-India separatist organisation. He actively campaigned for the cause of so-called liberation of Kashmir by administering to others the oath of allegiance and dedication to the so-called cause. The crushing defeat suffered by Pakistan in 1971 war with India and its failure to liberate Kashmir despite three wars made Plebiscite Front  realise the futility of its struggle from outside and decided to try subversion from inside. Thus, the ground was prepared for the now infamous 1975-Accord between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh known as the Indira-Sheikh Accord heralding the Sheikh back to mainstream politics and revival of National Conference.

    Not many readers are aware of an conspiracy hatched during the same period. In 1970, the plan of ‘Greater Muslim Kashmir' was drawn jointly by CIA, ISI and the Saudi intelligence (Istekhaarat). According to Selig Harrison, an expert on South Asia, Greater Muslim Kashmir not only envisaged secession of Kashmir from India but also included destabilisation in the country through ethnic and communal conflicts and subversion. Sheikh Abdullah had been working towards it before his arrest. Creation of Doda district in 1948 in Jammu region was the first step towards consolidating Muslims. Sheikh Abdullah is also known to have supported the notorious Dixon Plan, which was rejected by Nehru.


    1953-75 was the golden period of peace and development in J&K. It had become the favourite destination of local and foreign tourists as well as the Bollywood. With the return of Sheikh in 1975 the tide turned for the worse. Saudi influence started increasing in the Valley, the process of Islamisation began, Muslim majority district of Kargil was created by bifurcating Ladakh in 1979, Saudi backed Jhelum Valley Medical College in Kashmir was mooted at the expense of badly needed medical care in Jammu province, names of about 2500 villages was changed to Islamic names, a vicious campaign against the Army began, local Hindus were labelled as “Mukhbirs” (informers). The separatist literature was made freely available in the shops and news stand.  The Wahhabis commenced making inroads in Kashmir. The first ever International Muslim Conference, duly backed and financed by Saudi Arabia, was held in Srinagar in 1979. The passing of Resettlement Bill twice by the J&K Legislative Assembly in 1982 gave further boost to the campaign of Islamisation launched by the NC led government. It however failed to see the light of the day due to the tough stand taken against it by New Delhi.

    Meanwhile, Farooq Abdullah returned to Kashmir as “heir apparent” in view of the failing of his father and launching of dynastic politics. In 1980 he signed an accord with locally respected Kashmiri religious leader Mirwaiz Farooq (an advocate of self-determination) known as the Double Farooq Accord. Sheikh died in harness in September 1982 and was replaced by Farooq. In the 1983 assembly elections Farooq Abdullah and his party sought support of all anti-national and secessionist organisations operating in the Valley namely Kashmir Liberation Front, Jamat-e-Tulba, People's League and Mahaz-e-Azadi. NC sought the support of these organisations on the plea that the ensuing elections were to be treated as a fight between all Kashmiris on the one hand and India as a sovereign country on the other represented by Congress (I). The election for the first time resulted into the political polarisation of votes on communal lines. While NC won all the 46 seats from Kashmir, Congress (I) swept the Jammu and Ladakh regions winning 26 seats. Farooq Abdullah became the Chief Minister but the victory of NC promoted the rise of secessionist and separatist parties that had remained dormant for quite some time and gave further boost to communal politics. Due to a rebellion in the family, a temporary change took place in the NC leadership when Farooq's brother-in-law overthrew him with the Congress support.

    Against the wishes of the people and for lust of power Farooq joined hand with Congress (I) in 1987 elections and forged an alliance with the later. The alliance won 66 seats but amongst the allegation of mass-scale rigging. The election is termed as a watershed in Kashmir politics. Farooq was again elected as the CM but the allegations of manipulations and massive rigging changed the entire political narrative in the Valley. Thousands youth crossed over to Pakistan for arms training thus heralding the era of trouble and turmoil in the state. At the time when his leadership would have been tested he continued to succumb under the pressure of secessionists and pro-Pak elements leading to his surprise resignation in 1990. The period also witnessed religious cleansing with the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pundits from the Valley under the threat of Islamic forces. “While Rome was burning Nero was fiddling,” similarly, while Kashmir was burning Farooq was holidaying in United Kingdom.

    NC had mastered the of manipulation and converting every adversity to its advantage by exploiting the situation to suit their interest. Government of India could find no alternative to Farooq and asked him to return from UK to participate in the 1996 assembly elections. NC again came to power and ruled the state from 1996-2002. This time Farooq Abdullah was more determined to promote the ideology of his party and thus turned a blind eye to the extinction of Sufi culture in Kashmir and rise of Wahhabi-Salafi Islam. This tenure of NC government was marked with growth in terrorism, nepotism, regional discrimination, demographic change of Jammu and ethnic exclusion. The party also raised the issue of “Greater Autonomy.” NC lost the 2002 election in which the command of the party was handed over by Farooq to his son Omar Abdullah who lost from the traditional family seat of Ganderbal. The subsequent events are very recent and fresh in the memories of the readers. Omar's rise to power in 2008 in alliance with Congress which was also marked with poor governance, corruption, failed law and order and blatant regional discrimination sounded the final death knell for the NC. NC's patronage of proposed Chenab Valley region by merging Muslim pre-dominant tehsil of Mahore with Doda and the idea of Pir Panjal region was another attempt to consolidate the Muslim areas and isolate the Hindu regions of Jammu province. NC was rejected by the people in 2014 assembly elections leading to a new PDP-BJP alliance. Farooq Abdullah lost the Srinagar parliamentary seat as well. Being not used to be out of power, the NC leadership is behaving like fish out of water. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is hobnobbing again with the anti-national and separatist forces to regain the lost political space and has opposed the measures like establishment of local Ex-Servicemen (Sainik) Colonies, return of Kashmiri Pundits to Valley, surgical strikes against terrorist launch pads in PoK and the grant of domicile certificate to West Pakistan refugees. Farooq's rhetoric and remarks like, “tumhare baap ka hai kya” are indicative of not only his frustration but display the true face of his party as well. However, it appears that the party has lost its mastery over manipulations and is finding it difficult to return to power without the support of Hurriyat and that is the reason of their bonhomie.

    (The writer is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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