Events over the last few days brought Jammu and Kashmir front and centre. This time, the headlines weren’t about violence or the turmoil, but instead were about mainstream politics and government formation. Enough has been written about the events that led to two competing attempts to fax letters to the Governor. The decision of His Excellency to dissolve the assembly without giving either side a chance to prove their ability to command a stable majority on the floor of the house will also be debated for years to come. The yardsticks used by Governors in Goa and Karnataka, to name two recent cases, weren’t applied in J&K, perhaps because the first attempt at government formation came from a formation opposed to the BJP. The last word hasn’t been written about the role of Raj Bhavan in the events of 21 November and once again, the occupant of that building has done himself and his constitutional position no favours whatsoever.
For me, the disappointment of having our serious and sincere attempts at forming a government sabotaged was compounded by the viciousness of the discourse by people opposed to what we were doing. No sooner had the story hit the wires and the discussions between the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress became public knowledge, motives started to be attributed. We weren’t accused of doing this for money, nor were we accused of doing this because we were power hungry. The BJP and its proxies pulled out their weapon of mass destruction – Pakistan. We were accused of attempting to form a government at the behest of Pakistan.
Initially, I ignored the allegation as mindless nonsense. The level at which the allegations were being made did not warrant a reaction. A recent entrant to the Rajya Sabha, better known for his TV studio appearances than anything else he’s done, and a legislator from Jammu, bitter at only having been Deputy Chief Minister for a few months before losing the perks of office. They alleged the discussions around the newfound bonhomie between the three parties was the product of meetings in Dubai and London. They were happy to suggest these meetings were at Pakistan’s behest. Knowing there wasn’t any element of truth to these allegations, all of us ignored them.
The shocker came yesterday morning when I saw an extremely senior BJP leader, one closely connected to his party’s activities in J&K, speak to a news agency. Ram Madhav made a vicious and totally unfounded set of allegations. He repeated the claim that the attempts at government formation were part of Pakistan’s wish-list. However, he went further and alleged that my party had stayed away from the recent elections in J&K because we were told by the Pakistani establishment to stay away.
I’m a fairly thick-skinned individual when I need to be. There isn’t an abuse or invective that hasn’t been hurled my way on social media and I’ve learnt to ignore them. If Mr Madhav had challenged my patriotism, I would have cared two hoots for his utterances. I’m comfortable with knowing who I am. I’m the same person who served three years as a junior minister in Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s government and travelled with the PM on more overseas trips than any minister in the current government has done. I don’t need anyone to certify my patriotism, nor will I be pressurised into wearing it on my sleeve.
However, when you claim my party takes political decisions on the instructions of the government of Pakistan, then I will refuse to take that lying down. To allege we are Pakistani stooges wrapped in mainstream flags is to dishonour the sacrifices of thousands of my colleagues and workers. Men and women, young and old, who were killed because we didn’t toe Pakistan’s line. Colleagues who to this day carry the scars of bullet wounds and bomb blasts because the party they belong to, my party, refused to join the violent uprising when it started in 1987-88. These are men and women who died because we held on to the flag of the nation as soldiers do, the difference being that my colleagues had no weapons to defend themselves with. So when seemingly responsible people dishonour these sacrifices, I will not take it lying down and when an attempt is made to respond with immature emojis, you are compounding an already terrible mistake.