'Don't expect 100% Kashmiris to thump chest, say we're Indian... that will never happen'

ID

In this Idea Exchange, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah speaks about the clampdown after the Afzal Guru hanging, militant attacks and why "no other chief minister is expected to tom-tom his Indian credentials as much as the CM of J&K". This session was moderated by Senior Assistant Editor Maneesh Chhibber

Maneesh Chhibber: Tell us of your journey in the last four years as Chief Minister.

Omar Abdullah: There have been some very good days, there have been some difficult ones and my colleagues and I have tried to steer the state through the difficult ones as best as possible. Has it been good enough? Time will tell.

D K Singh: What has your experience been with your coalition partner? Will you go with the same alliance into the next general elections?

Omar Abdullah: Ours was not a pre-poll coalition, it was a post-poll coalition. The National Conference Working Committee has co-authorised the party president to talk to the Congress and take a decision. There is no clear indicator one way or the other. Also, it's not a decision the NC can take unilaterally. It is equally a question for the Congress. Unlike other states where alliances are more or less pre-determined because of party politics, in J&K, the Congress has the option of choosing between two regional parties... So, will that be a factor, time alone will tell.

Y P Rajesh: Looking from the outside, the Valley seems to suffer from a perpetual victimhood complex. People react very strongly as they did after the Afzal Guru hanging and with the CRPF killing incident.

Omar Abdullah: If you have lived through what the Valley has lived through for the last 25 years, you would have a victimhood syndrome as well. Life has not been easy for the average Kashmiri. A simple example: for many years, the decision to wear a watch or not was a life and death question. The militants dictated that you set your watch to Pakistan Standard Time. Indian security forces said, set your watch to Indian Standard Time... Has the time come to shake that (sense of victimhood) off? Yes. The situation is no longer what it used to be. There is a sea change between the early 1990s, early 2000 and now. But even if Kashmiris wanted to stop feeling like victims, enough political leaders will reinforce that feeling because their politics thrive on it. We have tried to give people a sense that greater normality is in their interest. And I don't think it's ever been done as effectively as it was done last year. There is less appetite for public protest today in Kashmir, largely on account of an agitational fatigue because they saw nothing come out of it in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Also, they have seen in the last year how much their lives can change for the better in terms of livelihood, children's education, etc.

... contd.

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