It is entirely in character that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a section of hypernationalist media-persons in India should have been incensed at the release of Masarat Alam, but back home, Omar Abdullah is perhaps the only pro-India Kashmiri politician unhappy that Alam was set free after just four years, a sentiment consistent with his party, and father, Farooq Abdullah’s naïve hardline approach towards the Azadi Camp. The third-generation Abdullah’s political activity being directly proportional to the number of his tweets at any given time, he promptly advertised his disappointment, and tweeted, not once, but seven times, to convey his dismay at the release of the key mobilliser during the 2008 and 2010 uprisings.
In what would ideally translate into a week’s work for the former Chief Minister, the younger Abdullah has justified his government’s decision to detain Alam, defended the police which had booked the resistance leader for ‘waging war against the state,’ predicted that Alam would “create trouble (again) if there is no secret deal behind his release” and suggested that those who see Alam as a political prisoner should view his speeches on YouTube and then “rush in to judge me”. This immature political posturing pervading the mindset of the National Conference leaders has brought Kashmir to this ruinous state. If Omar Abdullah were to read his own tweets in the light of his party’s history, he might find himself favourably inclined to joining a good Twitter de-addiction programme.
Does his party not take pride in having donned the mantle of the protector of Kashmiri sovereignty, and having even demanded Azadi, at one point in history? Is Alam not a more forceful and sincere representative of that sentiment? Did the younger Abdullah not attribute the NC’s worst-ever defeat in assembly elections mainly to the killing of 130 people, mostly boys, during the 2010 uprising? After a humiliating defeat in Parliamentary elections, did he not try to placate Kashmiris by ordering a reinvestigation into those killings? Why? And was this not an admission that his government alone was responsible for the deaths of protesters who were forced to throw stones as a last resort because the state had closed all avenues for expressing dissent?
Omar Abdullah should have shown some sense of shame before claiming that Alam’s detention had ended the uprising and paved the way for two “peaceful” elections, because the uprising was “ended” by brutal state repression during which every resistance leader was jailed, thousands of protesters injured in police action and an entire population subdued by frequent curfew. If, on the other hand, Abdullah had intended to ingratiate himself with the BJP in case the party has a change of heart, he would have found at hand tactics far less cheap than twittering on Alam’s release.