The question of National Conference aligning with the NDA simply doesn’t arise
Union minister at 29, Chief Minister at 39, third generation politician, articulate, and never far from controversy. At 43, Omar Abdullah leads a state where a new generation knows neither active militancy nor a syncretic paradise, only a sullen peace. Where being Kashmiri is seen as being distinct from being an Indian. The conduct of young Kashmiris, as of 67 Meerut University students cheering Pakistan in their victory against India on March 6, doesn’t always help. But as Abdullah says, there is no black and white about Kashmir, only grey.
Q. Do you feel Kashmiri or do you feel Indian? A. Was Akhilesh Yadav asked are you UPite or are you Indian? Was Arvind Kejriwal asked, do you feel like a Delhiite or feel like an Indian? Why is that when you come from Jammu and Kashmir that is something which is asked: Do you feel Indian or do you feel Kashmiri? I feel both and I feel both with an equal amount of passion. I don’t believe it is necessary for me to feel more of one or less of the other, to be who I am. It is important that we stop trying to ask people to prove their nationalistic credentials. I always wondered why my father did it. I asked him ‘why do you feel the need to constantly repeat this?’ He said, well, it was advice given to him by one of his governors, the late Mr B.K Nehru, who said, ‘Farooq if you don’t keep reminding people that you are Indian, people will very easily assume that you are not.’ I don’t feel the need to do that.
Q. What are your views on charges of sedition being slapped on the students in Meerut. A. It was overkill. What they did was misguided, I would go so far as to say that it was wrong. On the one hand, you are taking a scholarship from the Prime Minister of India and on the other hand, cheering on like this. But that having been said, what they did wasn’t illegal in a way. It’s part of what makes this country great. I doubt something like that would be easily tolerated in our neighbourhood.
Q. Q. Will you align with NDA if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister? A. Absolutely not. National Conference’s relationship was more a relationship between the National Conference and Atal Bihari Vajpayee—Vajpayee as an individual who brought people together. We found it extremely easy to work with him. I think our decision was vindicated by some of the steps that
THERE IS NO MODI WAVE IN THE COUNTRY. AWAVE IS WHAT YOU SAW RAJIV GANDHI GET AFTER THE ASSASSINATION OF INDIRA GANDHI.’’
he took with Jammu and Kashmir, the way he reached out to Pakistan, the way he sought to mend relations with them and the initiatives he took within the state. I don’t see anyone in BJP today who comes even close to what he was.
Q. If BJP government comes to power, do you think they will rescind Article 370? A. They can’t touch Article 370 without the consent of the state.
Q. If you were to give Rahul Gandhi advice, what would it be? A. I definitely would not do it through a public forum like this. I would find a slightly more private way of doing it. All I would tell him right now is not to back off after one interview with one channel.
Q. What’s your view on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)? A. I think we need to distinguish between legal cover and impunity. The sort of cover they get right now means they can pretty much do as they please without fear of consequences. The fear has to be built back into the system, the legal cover to operate still needs to be given to them.
Q. What is the one thing you want to do for young Kashmiris? A. I want to take out the uncertainty in their lives. The fact is that they have been brought up on a diet of uncertainty—uncertainty about the future of Kashmir, uncertainty about their own future, their own physical future; forget about their economic future.
Q. Is there a Narendra Modi wave in the country? A. I think we tend to overuse the term ‘wave’. A wave is what you saw Rajiv Gandhi get after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. But there is no doubt that there is an effect Modi has had on the electoral process and I see it on the ground in Jammu as well.