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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peerzada: Minister of gain in the coalition of loss

Sonia, Omar have more at stake than this ‘loyalist since Emergency’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 13: In his statement of defence, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed has communicated to Mrs Sonia Gandhi some important things in bullet points: That he has been a Congress loyalist and has never left the party in lurch since Emergency; that he has done much to keep India’s flag high in the strife-torn Kashmir; that he has rehabilitated a ‘militancy-hit family’ in his second marriage.

Those aware of things closely include editor of a vernacular daily in Srinagar. In his complaints to readers through the columns of his daily and Police through applications, he is on record to have observed that much more than the poor Minister it was the ‘militancy-hit family’ that was behind sending JKLF men to his office, getting him kidnapped and thrashed at a hideout in Maisuma. His accusations have gone uncontested in the last 10 years.

When New Delhi needed men to keep its flag aflutter in Srinagar, Peer Hissam-ud-din’s nephew huddled himself into the dungeons of Legislators’ Hostel in Jammu. Those who performed the heroic task in turbulent times and held the fort in Valley without publishing their resignation through paid advertisements in vernacular dailies, are all in oblivion today. Taj Mohiuddin is an exception.

Peerzada read about Ghulam Rasool Kar’s rally of January, 1995, in newspapers. Kar and Taj made the first dent in the Hurriyat’s and the militants’ completely captured Valley with the blessings of Narasimha Rao and Rajesh Pilot. Even as Rao remained just rhetorical with his sky-is-the-limit in Burkina Faso, Pilot kept shuttling between Delhi and Srinagar at a time when men like Peerzada believed that the Valley had been lost for ever.

Pilot left no stone unturned to regain the lost paradise for Delhi. After several visits from 1990 to 1992, he made it a point to drive deep into the interior of Baghwanpora, Lalbazar, to interact with bereaved families when over 50 people died in a house collapse. He met elders to seek their goodwill and doled out things from telephone connections to LPG units among the young, whoever met him and sought favour from the Member of Parliament. Pilot was absent but his portraits were high in the rally Kar and Taj initiated from Uri and concluded three days later at Qazigund.

Those prominently conspicuous in the rally included Ghulam Mohammad Mir Magami, who later became Lok Sabah member in 1996, and died; Former militants Sareer Khan, who was years later ambushed and gunned down in Chandoosa; and, Chaudary Jalal-ud-din, who was later literally pushed back to the wall of ‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’. Days after his maiden interaction with Pilot, Jalaluddin appeared on Doordarshan with his famous statement, perhaps first of such against the militants: “Al-Barq, Al-Garq” [Down with Al-Barq] “Eik kutta thaa mere paas, usay bhi naa chhorha [Terrorists didn’t spare even my pet dog].

Jalal’s brother, Salam-ud-din, contested two elections for Congress from Kupwara. He lost both, but not before attracting back into the mainstream politics men like Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, who had led pro-Azadi processions from Kupwara to Lolab in 1990, after serving as NC’s MLA from 1987 to 1990. Then a promising advocate, Mir Saifullah, too was lured into the pro-Indian political activity. In 1996 elections, both became NC’s MLAs from Kupwara and Lolab respectively. Salam-ud-din too vanished into oblivion shortly, alongwith the most imposing Deen Mohammad Cheetah.

While as Ghulam Ahmed Mir remained engaged in distributing petrol pumps with a union Minister in Delhi and Peerzada read Kokernag’s news in the dailies in Jammu, Kar and Taj kept sowing fresh seeds of their party in Valley. The ‘militancy-hit family’ in question remained part and parcel of the bloodshed that commanders like Parvez Billa unleashed in Valley and made thousands of the Kashmiris run for life.

Anyway, that’s not for Congress alone. In NC too, men like Mohammad Sayeed Akhoon, who had the audacity of keeping the red party flag aflutter on their rooftops, perished under the weight of escapists who returned as ‘petty contractors” from Jammu in 1996 and became not only Ministers but also multi-millionaires. In the whole camp, Forest Minister Mian Altaf is the only one who stood back in Valley firmly alongwith his family and survived fatal landmine explosions. In one of such blasts, his foot was nearly amputated.

When Taj grappled with counter-insurgents and declared his own war on the dreaded Ikhwan and Muslim Mujahideen, Peerzada learned about it in Jammu. Later, when “Emergency time loyalists” returned, Kokernag-Dooru had become a safe haven for Congress. Death of NC’s MLA and Parliamentary Secretary (minister without oath) Ghulam Hassan Bhat in an IED blast and poor performance of another MLA, Pir Abdul Rasheed, came as a boon to Congress. Since 2002, Kokernag and Dooru have become bastions of Mrs Gandhi’s party.

Cynics expecting Peerzada’s and Mir’s fall after 2006 sex scandal were pretty wrong in their observation. Both were returned in 2008 and both are continuing as strong contenders in the forthcoming elections too.  Peerzada’s involvement and indictment by J&K State Accountability Commission later in the infamous Panchayat Ghar Electrification Scandal became a certificate of his “good performance” for the voters in Kokernag. Even today, after reams of his involvement have been published in newspapers, his constituency stands intact.

If that alone is the yardstick, Peerzada deserves to be promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief Minister.

But, nobody in Kashmir seems to have swallowed Sonia Gandhi’s act of making the mockery of the party’s affairs as well as that of the NC-Congress coalition. Much more than Peerzada has gained in the support and clean chit from Delhi, Sonia and Omar have lost. Having lost their faith in the coalition leadership, unprecedented in last many years, Kashmiris are now satirically suggesting on streets: “Peerzada Sahab should be now given portfolio of Higher Education so that he could help his son in under-graduation examinations!”. Will the morally sensitive Omar Abdullah allow himself to be sacrificed for tainted partners of Congress, remains the biggest question in every drawing room in Srinagar.


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