With the end of J&K Representation in Raj Sabha , term of 4MP’s expires and in the farewell
speeches to the Rajya Sabha Congress’s Azad hoped for the end of militancy, PDP MPs Nazir Ahmad
Laway and Mir Mohammad Fayaz asked for restoration of statehood — with the latter praising
the Centre’s Ujjwala scheme.
While Congress’s Azad shared his experiences as a college student in Kashmir and hoped for the end of militancy, PDP MPs Nazir Ahmad Laway and Mir Mohammad Fayaz asked for restoration of statehood — with the latter praising the Centre’s Ujjwala scheme. And BJP’s Shamsher Singh Manhas talked of barriers in aid reaching J&K.
Apart from praying that “militancy and terrorism” should end in the country, Azad dedicated a poem for Kashmiri Pandits, whom he called brothers and sisters.“Guzar gaya vo jo chhota sa ek phasaana tha, phool the, chaman tha, aashiyaana tha. Na pooch ujde nasheman ki dastaan. Na pooch. The char din ke par naam ashiyaana toh tha. Both of you [Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi] are sitting here. One again, make those homes again which were uprooted, we will all have to try for this,” Azad said.
With the Jammu and Kashmir legislature dissolved after the abrogation of Article 370, and no new elections called, which will mean no new Rajya Sabha MP for the time being, PDP’s Laway said everyone in the House now needed to be J&K’s representatives.
“As far as our system goes, after 27 years, this House is being emptied, and I will only say, “Ab tumhaare hawaale yah Jammu Kashmir saathiyon… Just like the Prime Minister said what happened in Gujarat, in every home, every person has become a victim. Today I want to say in this Parliament that the mud in which Jammu and Kashmir is trapped, for Jammu and Kashmir, you people have to do something. You have to apply balm, you have to adopt it, you have to adopt our children,” he said.
Laway said that when he first arrived in the Rajya Sabha six years ago, he only knew Jammu and Kashmir, but over his tenure and his travels, “in every state of India there are my friends”.
“I want to say that in Jammu and Kashmir we have lost a lot, but we have gained a lot too. My request to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister is that the educated of Jammu and Kashmir is unemployed. Our only avenue in Jammu and Kashmir was tourism, that has been finished too. So please adopt Jammu and Kashmir… when we leave from this House, then other than Doctor Sahib (Farooq Abdullah), we have no representative here, you people are our representatives. You people have to speak for Kashmir. If we speak from our hearts, our wounds are so deep, Jammu and Kashmir, and specially Kashmir, the wounds are so deep, I don’t think they will become okay,” Laway said.
Laway said he had hope that the Prime Minister and the Home Minister would live up “to the promise they made to the House in front of me” and that Jammu and Kashmir would become a state again, and a Bill would be brought, “today or tomorrow.”
His party colleague Fayaz spoke of the “hurt” that mainstream politicians in Jammu and Kashmir feel at being called anti-nationals, when it was them who stood up to separatists’ calls for boycott. “In Kashmir, people like us who are in the mainstream, we worked for the country, we took the country’s flag to the villages, but sometimes we see on some television channels that someone says that I will go to Kashmir and plant my country’s flag, then we feel hurt. I want to tell you that when separatists used to call for a boycott, we would step out, we would get people out and show them that this is the way, that is not the way. So it hurts when someone calls us anti-national, we cannot tolerate it,” Fayaz said.
He said that when “things have happened they should be acknowledged”, and spoke specifically of the Ujjwala scheme. “What has happened should be acknowledged. I have seen the Ujjwala schemes or other schemes. When I was chairman of the municipal committee, in one year we used to get Rs 5 lakh. Now when I ask our people, they say they got Rs 5 crore. In the same way, about gas. Till yesterday, our ladies used to bring wood from the jungles, from villages very high up. Today in their homes too there is gas,” he said.
Fayaz said that when he took issues to the government in Delhi, he was never turned away, but blamed “people sitting in our state and bureaucrats” for problems. But he too reiterated the demand for a restoration of statehood and special status. “I want to appeal to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, that doing justice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, please restore the state and the special status. By this, the people of Jammu and Kashmir will have their confidence strengthened in the country,” Fayaz said.
BJP MP Manhas said that in all of Jammu and Kashmir, there will not be an area he had not visited. “In my 13-year term (as party president there), I have continuously roamed Jammu and Kashmir, I have understood the circumstances and attempted to understand the people. I was able to show that experience here. The situation was very serious there. The way things used to go from the Centre there, there were many stoppages and hurdles in them reaching there, Jammu used to be ignored, Ladakh used to be ignored,” Manhas said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s teary-eyed farewell to senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on his last day in the Rajya Sabha triggered speculations in political circles. At a time when civility between the ruling alliance and opposition members has become rare in the day-to-day functioning of the Parliament, Modi’s overture towards a Congress leader who belongs to Kashmir was rather unusual.
Given the prime minister’s reputation of being calculative in everything he says or does, his friendly overture towards Azad could be interpreted as a veiled attack on the divided Congress house. It may be remembered that Azad is also one of the leading members of the group of 23 rebel leaders, and had openly sought intra-party elections to challenge the hegemony of the Gandhi family in the Congress.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, spearheaded by the prime minister, hasn’t left an opportunity to take aim at the Gandhi family leadership in the Congress. The BJP views the Congress as a party that values dynasty politics over everything else that it represents. In that respect, Azad, who stands alienated in his own party even as he finishes his four-decade-long parliamentary stint, cuts a sorry figure.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the prime minister used this political opportunity to paint a poor picture of the Congress party, at a time when the BJP has been running an extensive campaign that anyone, just by the virtue of hard work, can work his/her way to the top in the saffron party. Modi himself represents the BJP’s most significant political leader who secured a leadership position without any social, economic or cultural capital.
It was Modi’s way of telling a Congress leader that commitment towards the Gandhi family – Azad had been an unwavering loyalist since 1973, until the last few months – doesn’t pay off.
“Do not feel like you are no longer in the House. My doors are always open for you. I will need your suggestions. I will not let you retire,” said the prime minister addressing Azad, as he held back tears. It is a distant possibility that Azad will switch his allegiance at this stage of his political career, but nonetheless he tactically chose not to speak about his objections about the Modi government bifurcating his own state, where he also served as the chief minister from November, 2005 to July, 2008.
Senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai noted this conspicuous miss by Azad in his speech, in which he recounted his political journey over the last five decades. While writing about Modi’s farewell speech for Azad, he noted that the senior Congress leader’s “wise counsel was not sought in any matters of Kashmir policy after Jammu and Kashmir state was reduced to a Union Territory, and the state was bifurcated”.
“Azad, a former state chief minister, is known to have certain views on Article 370 and almost all the outstanding issues being faced in Jammu and Kashmir,” he further wrote.
Azad heaped praises on leaders like Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and also Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his emotional speech. He also felt compelled to say that he was proud to be a “Hindustani Muslim”, while feeling “fortunate” to have never visited “Pakistan”. In what must have come as a delight for the BJP leaders, who constantly negate the unprecedented pushback against Muslims under the Modi regime, the senior Congress leader said, “…if any Muslim in the world should be proud, then it should be the Muslims of India.”
Modi, on the other hand, stuck to his rulebook of taking digs at the Congress directly or indirectly. He used his farewell speech for Azad to invoke Pranab Mukherjee, who is also seen as a dejected Congress leader who was denied the prime minister’s position despite being loyal to the party all his life.
“I will never forget Shri Azad’s efforts and Pranab Mukherjee’s efforts when people from Gujarat were stuck in Kashmir due to a terror attack. That night…Ghulam Nabi Ji called me…,” Modi recalled.
For the BJP, Azad is an addition to the list of leaders like former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, Pranab Mukherjee or even Sardar Patel and Subhash Chandra Bose who, according to the saffron party, never got their dues in the Congress. The Azad-Modi bonhomie in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday clearly reflects that aspect of the BJP’s political campaign.
At the same time, Modi’s emotional speech for a “Muslim-Kashmiri” leader will now surely be projected as one to counter the rigid and aggressive image that he has attained during his prime ministerial tenure, and which has triggered a series of resistance movements over the last few years in India, the farmers’ protests being only the latest of them.