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An Enigma that is Farooq Abdullah

April 22, 2010

He is the son of Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah. Has has had a comfortable life – as one would expect. Yet he is grounded and has no airs about him. He understands his people like no one else in Kashmir politics and his opponents fear him. Many a politicians have had their moorings in National Conference which includes some of the Islamist pro-Pakistan Hurriyat Conference. His initiation into politics was way back in 1981 when he first became the Chief Minister. He has been the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir five times. He entered into an accord with Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress Party and headed the coalition government. He is quick to laugh and has an endearing smile. He does not inhibit himself even in front of the cameras and tears roll down his cheeks if he is moved enough. He willingly let his young son Omar head the party and National Conference had to sit in the opposition when People Democratic Party and the Congress formed the government with Mufti Saeed as the chief minister. Next time over, Farooq saw to it that he did not let go the reigns of the party completely and National Conference again came to power. It is said that the man knows his party functionaries from each district and tehsil by name. Married a British lady Molly and has three daughters and a son and is an adoring father.

Where does one start about Farooq Abdullah? The man has said many a times that he wants to be the president of India. Those who know him warn that he will then turn the state into a presidential form of government were he to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan!!! His foes say he has links in the CBI and is very close to the Gandhi family. The latter is surely true as Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah are close friends and it was Rahul who prevailed that Omar be made the chief minister and not Farooq this time around. He is a man who cannot offer namaz on his own – he just does not know the routine. He is unorthodox and does not mind singing Vande Mataram in totality. He also does not shy away from the fact that his grandfather was a Kashmiri Pandit. His daughter-in-law (Omar’s wife) is a Hindu as is one of his sons-in-law – Sachin Pilot. When his daughter decided to marry Sachin, I am sure the Abdullah’s discussed it thread bare and decided that this was a tricky situation. It would have been political hara-kiri to be seen marrying his daughter to a Hindu boy.  Yet, the Abdullah’s knew that this was the right way to go. Farooq declared that he had nothing to do with his daughter, Sarah anymore and that as far as he was concerned she could go to hell!! Omar went incognito (believed to be undergoing treatment for appendicitis at Batra Hospital, Delhi). Sarah married Sachin on her own. Things settled down. A few years later Farooq Abdullah proudly posed with his son Omar and son-in-law Sachin outside the Parliament, beaming with a broad smile on his face. His elder daughter Hena is married to a black Christian and is settled in Africa. His eldest daughter is married to Asif Khan and is settled in Kashmir. That is Farooq Abdullah for you. A proud father who is uninhibited by orthodoxy, who would go that extra mile for the happiness of his kids and who is smart enough that no one can take political advantage of his personal decisions. It takes a lot to do what Farooq has done for his kids.

When Omar became the chief minister, Farooq had declared that he would be the next chief minister. Yet the Congress Party insisted on Omar. Farooq did not hesitate in giving the crown to young Omar. When the time for taajposhi (anointment) came he called all his family members and the Abdullah’s had a blast celebrating Omar’s success. He even sang a popular Bollywood number hoping for Omar’s success as chief minister.

Then there came a time when in the Shopian case the opposition tried to frame Omar and him. When the opposition made these charges on the floor of the house, an indignant Omar insisted that he will resign while his party men tried to dissuade him from taking any such hasty decision. Omar resigned and as expected went straight to his father. According to Omar, his father blasted him like he had never done and he felt like a ten year old. Farooq just could not understand as to how Omar could resign in such haste. Later Farooq came out and calmly told the press that whatever Omar did was right!!! And then he managed things such that the whole episode was forgotten!! Can anyone ask for a better parent?  Those who know Omar said that it was all about Payal (his wife) and he had to go back home, did he not?

There was a time when Farooq Abdullah became a part of the rightist political set up called the NDA. The man could not anticipate the kind of reaction such a move would have and his party lost the next election. He is a liberal man and for once he thought from his heart and not his head and paid the price. Farooq Abdullah was one of the politician’s who went with Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Pokharan when India tested nuclear bombs in May, 1998. Omar was Vajpayee’s blue eyed boy and he saw in the young man the future of India.

Farooq Abdullah can be credited with having sown the seeds of democracy in Kashmir after militancy eroded the system in the early nineties. He can also be hailed for having stood his ground when no one was ready to stand up to the militants in the valley. The man saw through the worst period in Kashmir history and at that time the situation was so bad that he had to heli-hop a couple of miles if he wanted to play golf – going by car was just too dangerous. Why did Farooq Abdullah stick his neck out for India? His reasoning was very clear – both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapons state and redrawing the boundaries will be very difficult. He talked to the powers that be in Delhi and was assured that India was not going to abandon Kashmir come what may. Farooq took his chances and became the chief minister. He also understands that the future of Kashmir is brighter and better with India rather than with a faltering Pakistan. Slowly but surely Kashmir has come out of the clutches of Pakistan sponsored terrorists and during the last elections the candidates were canvassing riding in open jeeps – such was the atmosphere. I think Omar and Farooq did a yeoman’s service in strengthening democracy when they decided to sit in the opposition when PDP-Congress government was formed. This instilled confidence among the people and a healthy precedence was formed. Of course, next time the National Conference under the father-son duo won and today Omar is the chief minister. I regret to say however, that Mehbooba Mufti is not as good a sport and is finding it hard to have to sit in the opposition. There is commotion every other day in the assembly and that is not what the opposition is supposed to do. People’s money is being wasted when there is no work done in the assembly.

The success of elections in Kashmir has been such that leaders like Sajjad Lone from the Hurriyat decided to fight the elections. Sajjad is a gentleman and he took the cudgels when the NC said that Hurriyat leaders had no following. Sajjad tried to prove that that was not entirely true. He still lost but he gave a very good fight. This was a lesson for the young man that democracy is indeed a tough call to take and those who do get elected have to work really hard. Omar has had his share of education when he lost his Ganderbal seat last time around.  But the credit for bringing back democracy to the valley still goes to the wise not so-old man of Kashmir politics – Farooq Abdullah.

Farooq Abdullah is a man who believes in living life to the hilt. The famous instance when he took Bollywood actress Rekha for a spin on his motorcycle has still not been forgotten. He can be found at most social occasions and loves to party. He is an interesting man.After the last Lok Sabha elections he waited for two days for the cabinet formation and being allotted a portfolio in the government. When he saw Manmohan and the Congress dithering, he took off to South Africa to watch IPL finals wearing a Panama hat, a flowery shirt and white trousers. Of course he had tipped off some of the reporters of his plans and his departure was widely reported in the press. His crass arrogance and devil may care attitude may have hurt some people but he said that his flight was scheduled and he could wait no longer. The Congress gave him a Cabinet position. He had wanted Health and Family Welfare as he is a doctor by profession but was given renewable energy. He accepted what was offered to him without any fuss.

The sensitive side of Farooq Abdullah comes out when one finds him among those who called for a committee to take care of ailing George Fernandez who is fighting a debilitating advanced stage of Parkinson’s.

One can go on and on about Farooq Abdullah. I still don’t know why there are people who are scared of him so. Maybe he knows too much about them all. Before I stop, I cannot help but recall an instance during the late nineties (during the height of militancy in Kashmir) when in the assembly Farooq Abdullah while giving a speech became so emotional that he began to cry, saying that the Kashmiri people are between a rock and a hard place. If they side with the security forces, the militants make their lives hell- if they as much as give food and water to the militants the security forces haul them up. The loud crying by Farooq Abdullah saw his party men begin to cry with him. When the opposition saw the NC members wailing, they too joined in. Finally, the whole house was crying and wailing. It bemuses me no ends when I think of that instance. The king was crying and slowly the whole house was wailing and crying in an unprecedented show of grief at the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq, though did make a point and this incident did mirror the travails of the ordinary Kashmiri.

Lastly, Farooq Abdullah understands that the Kashmir problem is much deeper than people think. During one of the innumerable discussions in the media he mentioned that POK (or Azad Kashmir) was not the only issue, the Northern Areas of Skardu and Gilgit were as important. He also mentioned Shaksgam Tract which is under Chinese occupation. He did say that the Kashmir dispute is in effect a tripartite issue and not just a bilateral issue as is made out to be. The man also realizes that the answers are elusive to say the least.

How does one define Farooq Abdullah – a consummate politician, a good father and a man who knows his job inside out! We need more people like Farooq Abdullah.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2010 1:16 am

    They seem indeed to be a fascinating family.

    I’ve read this with particular interest because according to Wikipedia, Omar Abdullah was born in Rochford,England, a few miles away from where I live

    Knowing that Farooq Abdullah and Molly Abdullah were a doctor and nurse, I wondered if they both worked at Rochford Hospital. Would you have any information on this?

    • sharma24 permalink*
      June 5, 2010 8:19 am

      I do not know if they worked in Rochford Hospital. Maybe you could check with the authorities there and pass the information. That would be great.

      There is another little detail that might interest you. Farooq Abdullah’s mother Begum Akbar Jehan, it is said first married Lawrence of Arabia when he was posted in India. Her father was British and her mother a Kashmiri peasant girl. Begum Akbar Jehan”s marriage to Sheikh Abdullah was her second marriage. It is said that she was quite a woman and believed in the Kashmiri cause as much as Sheikh Abdullah.

  2. Shiraz permalink
    January 21, 2011 10:48 am

    Farooq Abdullah was not able to get his certification to practice medicine in England and his son Omar Abdullah could not complete his MBA from England. Farooq Abdullah just took the easy route piggy riding on the popularity of his father amoungst the innocent Kashmiris. He is the “Zardari” of Kashmir.He has learnt acting while enjoying life with the bollywood actors. His tears and other antics are an act to befool the people. His son, Omar Abdullah too took the short cut route and with the help of Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot pulled the rug from under his own father’s feet to become the puppet CM of J&K.Rest is history.


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