‘Restoring pre-1953 status only way forward’
SRINAGAR: Soon after his re-election as National Conference (NC) president, Farooq Abdullah took an unusual four-day visit in areas falling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
It was baffling as to what prompted Abdullah, a former chief minister, to brave the cold weather and the occasional exchange of gunfire between the armies of India and Pakistan to travel through the rugged terrain along the LoC, holding meetings and addressing party gatherings.
“The visit was to show that he is physically strong,” a senior NC leader told Kashmir Reader. “He can take challenges. It was a symbolic message to the people and the opposition parties that Abdullah has the acumen and strength to lead the party from the front. He wanted to show that he can move, however difficult the conditions. He wanted to show Abdullah and NC will survive, come what may the situation.”
Abdullah visited the forward areas along the LoC from November 4 to 7, during which he addressed party gatherings and met delegations at Keran, Machil, Tanghdar, Lolab, Langate and Teetwal.
It also coincided with the time the New Delhi-appointed interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, began holding talks with Kashmir stakeholders on November 07. As the point man talked with various Kashmir groups and members of pro-India political parties to solve the Kashmir issue, Abdullah was ridiculing the interlocutor, saying his mandate was undefined. In his aggressive addresses, the NC president said he attaches no expectations to the interlocutor as the only way forward in Kashmir is the restoration of autonomy to the state.
“Our stand on resolving the issue of J&K politically is loud and clear, which is the restoration of the pre-1953 situation to the state,” Abdullah had said.
Provincial president NC Nasir Sogami, who accompanied Abdullah during his four day trips to forward areas, said that the visit was an effort for the party president to reach out to the people residing along the LoC.
Asked what compelled his sudden visit to those areas in view of the rugged terrain and the looming winters, Sogami said, “Farooq Sahab wanted to give heed to the grievances of the people residing on the border. He knew the areas will get cut off from the rest of Kashmir due to snow blockades. So he thought it will be better to start his outreach programme from those remote areas.”
Stressing that Abdullah took a detailed report of the problems faced by the people along the LoC, Sogami said that the worst victims of India-Pakistan hostilities were the border residents.
“In his speeches, he advocated border peace and granting of autonomy on both sides of the border,” he said. “He was appalled after seeing the neglect faced by the population there.”
Meanwhile, another NC leader said that Abdullah would likely prepare a report about the problems faced by the border residents and will present it before the upcoming winter session of the Assembly in Jammu.
“This visit is more political than a visit which has come out of concern,” the leader said. “The party wants to gain the ground. The PDP is under strain and has ceded the ground. We will capitalize on it. It is better to begin from the border areas as they are really suffering due to ceasefire violations and neglect. Our outreach will be a goodwill gesture towards those people. It will send a message that we care for them. We are concerned. It will also be a message that Abdullah is strong and he can lead the party to victory.”