Three-time former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and top patron of National Conference, Farooq Abdullah appears to be embarking on a political strategy that has failed completely after the creation of his rival Peoples Democratic Party. Abdullah told his party workers in Srinagar on Friday that he believed that Kashmiri militants were sacrificing their lives to win freedom for the nation. He said the armed militants have devoted themselves to the Almighty “for achieving freedom of their nation.”
Who the veteran pro-India politician was addressing may be a matter of contextual analysis, but it appears he certainly was not directing his sympathetic views towards armed resistance in Kashmir at Kashmiri people. Coming as these views have following the 2016 protest mobilization against Indian rule and the unchanging public mood — amply on display every time people come out in large numbers in support of the armed militants during gun fights and cordons – Abdullah may be trying to harvest public sympathy by acknowledging the actual politics of the insurgents. This was something the PDP tried in order to make its initial political capital and eventually exposed themselves as a farce in the general public perception.
So, who might Abdullah and his NC be trying to placate? Kashmiri people may not look for or expect such an acknowledgement from the leader of a political party long seen as having bargained away Kashmiri rights for power. Kashmir has witnessed a series of huge mass protests, sometimes lasting months and entire seasons, demanding Azadi. It’s almost become a pattern that after every such mass protest some kind of elections have followed serving to ‘discredit’ the politics of such protests in Kashmir. But this time around no elections appear near given how staying in power appears to be the only politics of the so-called mainstream parties.
If Abdullah of the grand old NC is has begun preparing his ground for the next elections he appears to be sending signals to the deep state in India. He is perhaps trying to communicate that he and his party are now in a better position to placate the Kashmiri sentiment for Azadi after PDP lost significant ground following its alliance with the ruling BJP. Abdullah has said in the past that nothing is possible in Kashmir without the having the Centre (New Delhi) on your side. But so much blood has been shed in the last few decades, and given BJP’s gloves off approach Kashmir, the same old ‘politics of deceit’ and sympathetic double-speak is unlikely to get the NC the favor that Congress would bestow it with from New Delhi in the bygone days.