Silence of Abdullah
In the three days that Abdullah has been out of detention, he has visited his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s grave located on the banks of Dal lake at Hazratbal and met his detained son Omar Abdullah at the nearby old palace Hari Niwas.
When on March 13, Dr. Farooq Abdullah appeared before the media for the first time after seven months, people expected him to slam the Centre's move to strip J&K of Article 370 that granted the erstwhile state autonomy under India's constitution. But, on the contrary, he skirted the issue, saying he will not make any political statement until other leaders are released, a choice that is seen more in line with the expectations of New Delhi than that of Kashmiris.
However, Abdullah was not alone. On the following day the senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, also a former J&K Chief Minister, flew to Srinagar to meet Abdullah. Later, talking to media, Azad too steered clear of any mention of Article 370. He called for the restoration of democracy and release of all political leaders, leaving other fights "to be picked up later". Abdullah who was by his side didn’t say anything.
In the three days that Abdullah has been out of detention, he has visited his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s grave located on the banks of Dal lake at Hazratbal and met his detained son Omar Abdullah at the nearby old palace Hari Niwas. With his wife and daughter by his side, followed by the media, Abdullah is seen passing silently from camera frame to camera frame. And this is being noticed by the people.
Abdullah has come in for some criticism for this on social media. "#FarooqAbdullah out after Govt of India quarantined him of all politics. He is as good as a new born baby; no ideology, no political stand, no guts, no roaring voice. Just a skeleton like his father. #Kashmir," wrote Shams Irfan on Twitter.
#FarooqAbdullah out after Govt of India quarantined him of all politics. He is as good as a new born baby; no ideology, no political stand, no guts, no roaring voice. Just a skeleton like his father. #Kashmir— Shams Irfan (@ShamsIrfan27) March 13, 2020
Another tweet posted by one Suhail Bhat said: "#FarooqAbdullah has given a written bond that he won’t speak about #Article370. He has done this deal with this fascist regime and in #Kashmir no one cares at all if he stays inside or outside because these politicians are directly responsible for all this mess".
No they can’t because #FarooqAbdullah had given a written bond that he won’t speak abt #Article370. He has done this deal with this fascist regime & in #Kashmir no one cares at all if he stays inside or outside because these politicians are directly responsible for all this mess— Suhail Bhat سہیل بٹ (@bhatsuhail09) March 13, 2020
And such noises will only grow if Abdullah continues to avoid saying anything about the withdrawal of J&K autonomy in the days to come. More so, when his condition for opening his mouth on the issue is unlikely to be met, as the Centre has offered no indication that it will release other leaders including his son Omar and Mehbooba Mufti, former J&K Chief Ministers.
At the same time, if his friend, the former RAW chief A S Dulat is to be believed, Abdullah will not attend the ongoing session of parliament. Dulat had met Abdullah early this year, allegedly with the permission of the union government, to gauge his mood. The former spy chief has revealed the details of his meeting with Abdullah in an interview with the online portal Wire.
There is no other known contact between the Centre and Abdullah - albeit, five days prior to Abdullah's release, foreign minister S Jaishankar had visited the Valley. But it is not known if he met any incarcerated leader.
Abdullah's conduct following his release has made people in Kashmir, and for that matter, even outside the region, engage in all kinds of speculations. In Kashmir, Abdullah's silence about Article 370 wasn't what was expected. Before August 5, he had challenged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revoke Article 370, asserting that Modi won't be able to do so, even if he became India's prime minister ten times. After Abdullah's release, the video of this statement has now gone viral on social media.
It is true the choices for Abdullah are tough. If he decides to take on the Centre on the nullification of Article 370 and urges people to resist it, he will most likely go to jail again. And if he keeps silent long enough, people will accuse him.of a deal with the BJP. And between these two courses is a tight rope walk, and it won't be easy for Abdullah to maintain the fine balance that is needed. What course among the three he will choose will become clear in the near future.
Tony Ashai, a noted Kashmiri architect, pithily summarizes Abdullah's dilemma in a tweet: "There are only two ways forward for #FarooqAbdullah, one he accept #Modi's move of Aug 5 and talk about statehood, and second, leave the country and live the rest of life in London. Any other move will land him back in jail. The next few weeks will show if he made the deal or not".