In these columns on 13th of January 2009, I addressed an open letter to Mr. Omar Abdullah titled ‘Good luck Omar’. This was done with an expectation that he will deliver with a difference. For the information of esteemed readers, here, I come back to a part of that particular letter.
‘Democratic leaning and political consideration have swung the pendulum of power in your favour and people of Kashmir have related great expectations with your governance not because you are Late Sheikh Sahib’s grandson but you are young, energetic and with a comparatively fresh and un-dotted personal political canvas to paint with aspirations of honesty and impartiality. You have a Herculean task ahead if you really intend to tread with sincerity, honesty and impartially, on the bumpy but indisputable road of prosperity and development otherwise you wouldn’t make a difference. Choice is yours. Political power and leadership in Kashmir has attracted more sycophants to generate core groups of exploitation and oligarchies of power brokers. Young politicians with authority like you are more susceptible to the invasion of these sycophants, so coming days will be real test of your leadership traits and capabilities; your integrity, dedication towards the cause and above all immunity against sycophancy and nepotism’.
In context to this letter particularly the above lines; I take the opportunity to have some more words with Mr. Omar Abdullah.
Your tenure of governance, well over a period of more than a year had proved bumpier than expected. From the day first main opposition part PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) left no stone unturned in undermining your personal image and structure of your government. Undoubtedly, they raised some genuine issues as responsible opposition but at times their campaign was quite slanderous and acts of sheer emotional blackmail. Your present coalition partner, which, for some period now, is suffering from an invisible vertical split has put your share of governance on much uncomfortable track and added to your difficulties. In one of the assembly sessions opposition struck the right cord (by present political standards) of your comparatively younger and vulnerable age and made malicious accusations. You struggled a lot to steer out of those testing times but surely it took a tool of your energy, which otherwise could have been utilised for betterment of the state and its people. Emotional bouts, followed by staggering political decisions almost overpowered you but the ring of shrewd political coterie and some elders around you bailed you out of that trap. For that you should not only be proud of your clean image but also thank masters sitting in the corridors of power at Delhi.
After experiencing many onslaughts of personal derogation and defamation you had to face the biggest moral, political and administrative test of you term of governance—Shopian tragedy. Much has been said and written about this biggest humiliation inflicted on the psyche of people of Kashmir. Shopian was the real test of your leadership traits and capabilities. You made many promises at the onset of investigation process. Some of these promises were made out of political and administrative obligations and compulsions, others under the influence of emotionally charged atmosphere which gripped the whole valley after this ghastly incident. What happened to those promises, it is a well known fact now? Yes, your commitment of speedy and time bound investigation was followed but it led no where except for humiliation to the soul and body of victims and their relatives. Shopian tragedy will forever haunt you, keeping your conscience always on edge. There were many other abrasions on human rights front but the recent killing of three youth in stage managed encounter to create an effect of bravery on part of killers is the biggest blow to existing explosive situation of human rights violation in the state. You have made many promises even now! Your statement on national media regarding the genuineness of all earlier militancy related encounters can not be taken on board in context of Shopian fallout and surely amounts to political exploitation. Presently it seems much is being done to nab the culprits of this fake encounter, interestingly or under some well devised strategy the timing of Prime Minister’s visit to valley proved real catalyst for expeditious commencement of this probe and speedy turn of events.
Only time will tell, what will be out come of this much talked about investigation? Many other violations under the garb of taming misguided people and restoring order will cover volumes. Brains of young budding Kashmiris considered to be contaminated with hatred are blown with tear smoke shells. Such barbaric acts of suppression find no parallels in the two decade long history of resistance in Kashmir.
As far your integrity and dedication, no challenges can be made or aspersions cast; and no conclusions can be drawn in a shortest period of one year. But these are not the only traits to lead a state and guide its people out of corruption, nepotism, maladministration and many other predicaments. In my earlier letter I had mentioned about your susceptibility to sycophancy, not out of choice but because of your age and experience. If I am not accused of exaggeration, your year of governance has proved no different from other earlier terms, as much severe incursion of sycophancy is prominent in all sections of your administration. Sycophants are accomplishing their agenda with impunity and have established much longer and stronger tentacles. Your patterns of administrative reshuffles are same as earlier ones; influenced by the lobby of sycophants who take turns to taste lucrative assignments and postings. We are all aware of compulsions of coalition dharma and it is very tough to carry on with such fragile arrangement, but allowing things to go out of hand under the overpowering influence of few, gives bad name not only to the government under your leadership but damages your own image, irreversibly.
There seems to be no respite in corruption. As expected by all, that with the change of guard things will improve with a positive note, it appears that during this period your young leadership and dynamism has proved very small against the monster of corruption. Accountability is at its lowest ebb, making people to speculate about situation of connivance. Every unit of administration behaves like a government unto himself, bothering least about collective management of affairs of the state. Misuse of state machinery, funds, assets and authority is unbridled. Government vehicles meant for running the affairs of the government are mostly used for personal use with no respect for rules and norms of protocol. To justify my observation, I humbly request your kind self to be around any of the prestigious public schools in the city in the morning or afternoon and you will come to know about the ultimate use of government machinery and the taxpayer’s money. The number of officers and so-called elite who always carry a chain of PSOs has increased manifolds over the period of time. These PSOs engaged at the cost of public money are used as domestic servants, drivers and as status symbol. On the one hand we claim that the atmosphere of threat and uncertainty has vanished but at the same moment we are unable to justify the ever increasing threat perception of selected class of people.
Traffic chaos, filth and menace of dogs have become hallmark of Kashmir. Every footpath and road is plagued with the menace of encroachers as ever and common man feels suffocated in this atmosphere of high-handedness. Local police, otherwise meant for safety of people are engaged either in pampering the elite or ridiculing the needy. Majority of our elite political and civil servant class are enjoying their privileges, and as sanctimonious humbugs they preach what they are not practising personally. I won’t deny such situation did not exist earlier but frankly speaking things are going from bad to worse.
Mr. Abdullah, a period of just more than a year, surely is not enough to judge your abilities but simultaneously any step towards the wrong way is not a good omen. Haywire will be the right word when the present administrative setup will be subjected to any standard of assessment. This situation of governance in place at the moment is almost antonym to justified governance what we were expecting from young and dynamic leader of your stature with a much cleaner and brighter political canvas.