2014, Kashmir, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Uphill with Omar Abdullah in Beerwah

An elderly lady embraces Omar Abdullah on the campaign trail in rural Beerwah
An elderly lady embraces Omar Abdullah on the campaign trail in rural Beerwah

Beerwah, Dec. 6: Out barnstorming the countryside a day after multiple terror hits to the Valley, chief minister and National Conference spearhead Omar Abdullah spelt out a blunt “no” to any post-poll deal with the BJP.

“That’s not going to happen, people can keep speculating and dreaming about it,” Omar told The Telegraph in an exclusive chat along his roadshow. He was touring his newly adopted rural constituency Beerwah, southwest of Srinagar.

It appears imminent the ongoing elections will throw up a hung Jammu and Kashmir House and there has been speculation in some circles Omar could ally with the BJP, or support its power effort from outside. Omar conceded the mandate may be fractured but said nothing will drive him to an alliance with the BJP, which is making an audacious first-time bid for power in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Continue reading “Uphill with Omar Abdullah in Beerwah”

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Kashmir, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Lone’s unlikely asset in Valley – ‘No’, ‘yes’ and Modi

Asma, Sajjad Lone’s wife, seeking votes in the Handwara countryside.
Asma, Sajjad Lone’s wife, seeking votes in the Handwara countryside.

Handwara (north Kashmir), Dec. 1: Sajjad Lone is walking too many paradoxes to bother finessing them.

His political legacy is separatist but he is pushing for an elected mainstream ledge. His wife Asma is daughter to the Pakistan-based chairman of the JKLF, Amanullah Khan, but she is scurrying tirelessly around town and hamlet canvassing an Assembly seat for her husband.

His shadow ally in this militancy-infested border outpost is the “Hindu nationalist” Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. The taunt that has relentlessly trailed Sajjad’s campaign is: “Jo Modi kaa yaar hai, gaddar hai, gaddar hai (Whoever is Modi’s friend is a traitor, is a traitor).”

But if Sajjad’s adversaries — chief minister Omar Abdullah and challenger Mufti Mohammed Sayeed — believe they are embarrassing the People’s Conference (PC) leader with the Modi link, they are shooting north Kashmir’s grey chill.

Continue reading “Lone’s unlikely asset in Valley – ‘No’, ‘yes’ and Modi”

2013, Kashmir, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Afzal Guru: A Hanging in Delhi; A Resurrection in Kashmir?

New Delhi, Feb 9: Naeem Akhtar daren’t go on television today.

As spokesman for Kashmir’s main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Akhtar is a familiar face and voice on the Valley’s tricky socio-political discourse. His latest intervention was last week’s polite pooh-poohing of the fatwa on the girl-band “Praagaash” as frivolous and defamatory of Islam.

But this morning he begged off live cameras, intensely distressed by the causes and consequences of Afzal Guru’s hanging, unable, yet, to get a measure of its future portents. “I don’t want to be part of this discourse,” he told The Telegraph on phone from Srinagar, “I am wondering if there is even place for me in this discourse, what has happened is a huge setback to voices of reason in Kashmir, it has dramatically narrowed the liberal space.”

Almost morose of tone, he added: “I understand a crime and its legal implications, but there are also issues of evidence against a man and the morality of fair trial. Is it not true that mercy too is part of the legal framework of India? Could it be true that in trying to win another election this government may have lost another generation of Kashmiris?” Continue reading “Afzal Guru: A Hanging in Delhi; A Resurrection in Kashmir?”