Three leaders (Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti) and their ways in Kashmir valley

It is very difficult to write about the powerful people whom one has known for decades. It becomes more difficult when they happen to be political rivals, each nursing Himalayan ego. As a journalist, I have encountered many such occasions when the powerful appreciated and ridiculed my reporting alternatively depending which part suited them. One theme is common they have zero tolerance to even slightest of criticism.
At the moment, there are three powerful leaders in Kashmir’s deemed mainstream. Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar — both former Chief Ministers, and their successor Mehbooba Mufti. Of all three, Farooq is a living legend of affability, flamboyance and a highly rated communicator. He is also one of those leaders who can get away with anything — he can sound a hardcore Indian and in the next breath seem like a challenger to the Indian sovereignty over Kashmir. This contradiction is part of his personality and only he can deal with the diametrically opposite conditions with finesse to loud applause from both sides of the fence.
Farooq is the most recognised face of Kashmir in the world. No one else is close to him even by miles. I have been watching Farooq since my college days dating back to 1975, when a young bright fresh face landed straight from England to Kashmir with his charming smile and oratorical excellence. All through he has recited one phrase that he learnt from his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah: “It is better to get deceived, but never deceive others.”
That kind of politics is not in practice nowadays.
Omar is an introvert and loves seclusion. The people have not seen much of his smile in public. In typical Englishman’s style, he is a very private person. His intelligence and articulation have placed him at a higher pedestal than his peers in politics. He can floor any international audience with his meticulous way of presenting facts and analysis.
This man caught in the unrest of 2010, on finding himself in the middle of rough sea of Kashmir politics described his predicament: “J&K is the most difficult state in the country to govern.” Questions were raised about his style of functioning and first flight to Delhi while the Valley was burning, it was at that time that he tolerated so many things and expressed succinctly that how difficult it was to run a politically fragile and emotionally hyper-sensitive place like Kashmir.
Omar, however, is not willing to make same concession to his successors. The sharp criticism of late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and now his daughter Mehbooba is a case in point. He is asking for the sacking of the Mehbooba government for its “poor performance” and the “zero delivery on governance.”
It seems that once hailed as fearless fighter, Mehbooba is becoming a self-doubter, perhaps because of the sudden turn of events after her father, friend, philosopher and guide Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death in January 2016. Her father is not there to guide her through the jungle of conspiracies and political intrigues.
She is not a quitter. But when she finds herself alone in the long and uncertain journey to negotiate dangerous curves to restore peace and dignity to Kashmir, her original image is not seen there. Mehbooba should know that there is a task cut out for her. Her view that “governance suffers because Kashmir discourse keeps on interrupting the path to governance,” is a fact. The people, however, don’t have infinite reservoir of patience and time. She needs to repose trust in herself yet again. The world is watching her.

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