July 2, 1984: When the edifice of ‘Abdullah legacy’ was mortally breached

Mohammad Sayeed Malik. Dated: 7/2/2020 11:11:03 AM

Farooq Abdullah, like his father, in 1953, had committed the cardinal sin of over-estimating their prowess vis a vis New Delhi. The following years and decades would reveal, ‘New Delhi’ had always coveted Kashmir’s ‘special status’, irrespective of the ideological complexion of the regime at the helm over there.

The drooping graph of the party’s popularity and stature since 1984 is largely rooted in post-1982 leadership deficiencies. Precisely, that was the root cause, though not the only reason, for open break in the dynasty within two years of the death of the unrivalled patriarch in 1982.

If the Congress and the dissident (‘defector’) legislators were to be exclusively blamed for alleged subterfuge and ‘backstabbing’ of the father how is it that the son, as well as the father, is today so comfortable with the very same bedfellows?

His dream of double crossing both Farooq and Shah shot down by New Delhi, a sullen Jagmohan reluctantly administered oath to GM Shah and his team, including each one of the thirteen NC rebels, at the fag end of a long day.


Within less than two years of his demise in September 1982, Sheikh Abdullah’s dynastic successors had lost the cornerstone of their inherited legacy. The National Conference forfeited its half a century long monopoly in Kashmir politics, thanks to Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s itching urge to fish in the troubled waters of the Abdullah dynasty in Kashmir.
As subsequent events would show, incompetence of the latter had more to do with it than the ‘New Delhi factor’, without which, course, nothing has ever moved in Kashmir.
Looking retrospectively, Farooq Abdullah, like his father, in 1953, had committed the cardinal sin of over-estimating their prowess vis a vis New Delhi.
As the following years and decades would reveal, ‘New Delhi’ had always coveted Kashmir’s ‘special status’, irrespective of the ideological complexion of the regime at the helm over there.
By the time the BJP on August 5, 2019 (apparently needlessly) deployed ‘heavy artillery’ to crush and mop up the ‘shell’ of Art 370 the (predecessor Congress) had cunningly hollowed it from inside, albeit without fanfare, barring the explosion they caused in 1953 to set the ‘process’ in motion.
The origin of this part of the story, however, lies in what happened on July 2, 1984
It was on that day that political power changed hands between two estranged branches of the Abdullah dynasty. Omar’s men recently claimed to have stumbled upon archival evidence which proves that the Congress support to GM Shah on that fateful day, against Farooq Abdullah, had also been designed to denude this state of its precious water resources. There is, however, no explanation for the failure of succeeding governments headed by Farooq Abdullah (1987-1990 & 1996-2002) to undo the damage; much less explaining greater denudation since Shah’s exit. This question posed by Shah’s son, Muzaffar Shah, in his counter-offensive, has gone unanswered by his dynastic contemporary. Pointed reference to the 1984 event in present context merits an analytical recollection.
Like everything else about Kashmir, truth has many versions of who, why and how of ‘July 2, 1984’. Immediately after its occurrence the event used to be celebrated as ‘day of deliverance’ by the gainers and mourned as ‘black day’ by the dispossessed. Even today, there are unanswered questions in the conflicting narratives in circulation.
For example, if the Congress and the dissident (‘defector’) legislators were to be exclusively blamed for alleged subterfuge and ‘backstabbing’ of the father how is it that the son, as well as the father, is today so comfortable with the very same bedfellows?
As against this, GM Shah’s comparative unpopularity did not come in his way to say ‘no’ to power-sharing with Congress on whose life support system his regime survived. He opted for terminating his shortlived but generally acknowledged as better-administered tenure on this bitter note.
Similarly, if, as is claimed, the ‘July 2,’84’, was an ‘ambush’ against popular aspirations in the Valley then why did Farooq Abdullah have to resort to reckless rigging in the very next (1987) assembly polls which provided the trigger for armed insurgency and why has the National Conference been losing, not gaining, in successive genuine assembly elections since 1984? Elections in 1996 were farcical. The post-Sheikh leadership is evidently out of sync with genuine popular aspirations.
The drooping graph of the party’s popularity and stature since 1984 is largely rooted in post-1982 leadership deficiencies. Precisely, that was the root cause, though not the only reason, for open break in the dynasty within two years of the death of the unrivalled patriarch in 1982. Simmering discontent in the rank and file fuelled by latent rivalries between competing contenders reached their flashpoint with Begum Khalida Shah assuming the leadership of what is today the Awami National Conference. Farooq’s superficial style of functioning, coupled with palpable backstage manipulation, made it easier for his rivals. To nobody’s surprise but his own, Farooq found himself dethroned one fine morning---July 2, 1984.
It is safer to rely on archive material than on eye-witness account because so many supposed witnesses invent things. The actual event was preceded by cloak-and-dagger succession struggle, behind the scene, as Sheikh Abdullah’s health deteriorated. In his book, My Dismissal, Farooq Abdullah acknowledges that his hasty midnight installation as chief minister, before Sheikh’s burial, ‘had the approval of Indira Gandhi’. DD Thakur’s key role (for Farooq and against GM Shah) in the preceding (succession) intrigue is also acknowledged. Farooq’s account of why Indira Gandhi and Thakur turned against him soon after and ‘conspired’ to oust him has too many holes.
Two governors, BK Nehru and Jagmohan, have recorded divergent versions of what led to Farooq’s downfall. But both agree on their assessment of Farooq’s flawed style of functioning and accuse him of unreliability.
Citing an instance of breach of his trust, BK Nehru in his autobiography, Nice Guys Finish Second, recalls how Farooq manoeuvred a confidence vote on the floor of the state assembly in violation of his commitment to the governor who was known to be supportive of Farooq and had rebuffed Congress on that score. Nehru retaliated with a terse communication to the then chief minister, warning him that his over-smartness was fraught with ‘serious implications’. It did not take too long for Nehru’s dark prediction to materialise.
Jagmohan’s version of the July 2, 1984 developments, though claimed to be based on facts, betrays his prejudice against the Abdullah dynasty in general and Farooq in particular. However, even his biased account contained in his book, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, cites documented evidence of Farooq’s waywardness.
There is no doubt that Indira Gandhi, having lost confidence in Farooq, took advantage of events on the ground to make ‘July 2, 1984’ happen. Her task was made easier by Farooq letting grass grow under his own feet. Also, Farooq, probably just once in his life time, contracted megalomania. He forgot the crucial difference between being his father’s successor and not his replacement. Sheikh’s successor started acting like Sheikh, forgetting that he had not earned the crown on merit but owed his out-of-turn succession to Indira Gandhi’s decisive partisan intervention against GM Shah.
Farooq’s inflated ego drove him into the wrong company. He did something that his father in his wisdom had avoided like plague: Active involvement with national opposition. Adventurism replaced Sheikh’s safe formula of remaining on a ‘common wavelength’ with the party in power in Delhi. Forgiveness was not among Indira Gandhi’s virtues. Farooq did not have the ability or experience to survive an unequal combat. His foes struck just when he was taken in by his larger than life image on the national scene while his own home-ground was slipping from under his feet.
Simmering succession feud started eating into the vitals of both, his government and his party. Farooq’s flamboyance blinded his vision. He had no inkling of what was happening around him. Dissatisfaction among his ministers, legislators and party workers did not bother him. It took the ‘motivators’ six to eight months to sniff and net the dissenters. As soon as the target figure, 13 MLAs, was reached the rivals went for the kill.
Farooq’s own account betrays his ignorance about happenings in his backyard. He, his political colleagues and his apparatus emerge as being clueless. Even long after the event, probably to this day Farooq does not seem to know the vital fact of where exactly the rebel legislators had assembled on that fateful night between July 1 and 2. Their hideout was a prominent politician’s roadside residential house in cantonment area and not the Forest Galli residence of Iqbal (‘diathane’) Bukhari.
The legislators travelled the short distance to Rajbhavan in cars via Gupkar Road. The caravan passed along the outer wall of Farooq’s residence where he was in blissful sleep in those momentous wee hours of July 2.
When Abdul Ghani Lone called Farooq early that morning to convey that his horses had bolted, he laughed it away as ‘one of those usual daily rumours’. It was only when he was called to the Rajbhavan around 7.30 am that the crushing reality dawned upon him. But it was too late by then and, according to Jagmohan, Farooq pleaded for imposition of governor’s rule rather than crowning ‘that scoundrel’ (Shah). This suggestion tickled Jagmohan’s own latent ambition but he had to behave and was commanded to obey. Farooq’s written ‘advice’ to the governor three hours later (demanding floor test) was, in effect, only a belated second thought instilled by PL Handoo and Mohammad Shafi (Uri). But by then Farooq’s goose had been cooked. He had readily conceded defeat earlier when confronted with the reality by a none-too-friendly Jagmohan and, in desperation, pleaded for governor’s rule.
His dream of double crossing both Farooq and Shah shot down by New Delhi, a sullen Jagmohan reluctantly administered oath to GM Shah and his team, including each one of the thirteen NC rebels, at the fag end of a long day. Legislative calculus had been meticulously worked out by the Congress.
The D-day appeared to have been carefully selected. 2nd July, 1984 happened to be the second day after Eid-ul-Fitr which is when everyone in Kashmir is in festive mood, officialdom being no exception.
A senior colleague of Farooq recalled that though they smelled something fishy but a coincident occurrence put them off-trail: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had distributed invitation cards for his daughter Mehbooba’s July 5 wedding. At the cabinet’s pre-Eid meeting they discussed that if at all there was any truth in the rumours there was ‘nothing imminent’ about them. They dispersed for Eid holidays self-assured that Mufti must have set the wedding date after ascertaining that nearly week-long wedding celebrations passed uninterrupted. In fact, the invitation card was closely examined, at the cabinet meeting, over the date issue.
In the end, not only did the Farooq camp pay for its fatal miscalculation but even Mufti household had to grudgingly curtail their celebrations as curfew followed Farooq’s overthrow on the second day of Eid. Although these facts suggest that Mufti may not have had fore-knowledge about the D-day, Farooq’s version is that Mufti not only knew the (2nd July) date but he also spilled beans in his speech at Jammu a couple of weeks earlier when he cryptically told a Congress gathering that ‘better days are around the corner’. Whether the Congressmen took Mufti’s alleged ‘hint’ or not, Farooq must still be cursing his own failure to grasp it. The end result was that Farooq lost his inherited political self-sufficiency, eventually passing a crippled, truncated legacy to Omar Abdullah.
(The article written long before August 5, 2019 has been retouched to bring it up to date with the current scenario)

 

Video

Indian History... Read More
 

FACEBOOK

 

Daily horoscope

 

Weather