New Age Islam
Wed Jun 16 2021, 12:47 AM

Islamic Personalities ( 8 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Omar Abdullah: face of modern India

By Harihar Swarup


It was, perhaps, the shortest speech in the debate on the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha but straightforward, punchy, exposing the bitter truth in minimum possible words.


It came from Omar Abdullah, who had earlier witnessed the unsavoury drama; BJP members, ripping open brief cases and strewing wads of currency notes on the table.


An anguished Omar described the episode as “unfortunate”, wondering if Rs. 1 crore shown in the House was seeking to “buy the silence of parties like mine”.


He then went into the real issue which sought to divide the people on the basis of religion.


Raising his voice amidst interruptions, Omar said: “ I am a Muslim, and I am an Indian, I see no distinction between the two……. I see no reason why, I as a Muslim, have to fear a deal (nuclear) between India and the United States……….. This deal is between two countries”.


He then elaborated the point, saying the enemies of Indian Muslims are not Americans, and the enemies of the Indian Muslims are not “deals” like this.


The enemies of the Indian Muslims are the same enemies that all the poor people of India face, namely, poverty and hunger, employment, lack of development and the absence of a vice.


Omar then had a sharp dig at the Marxists, exposing their double standards, clarifying, at the same time, that “ I am not a member of the UPA; nor do I aspire to be a member of the ruling dispensation. But, I am extremely unhappy with the way in which my friends in the Left have taken on this self-imposed position of being certifiers of who is secular and who is not …”.


Then came the punch-line: “Until a few years ago, I was a part of the NDA and I was a minister with them. The same Left parties considered me as a political untouchable, and they considered me an outcast because I was a part of the NDA. Today, the same Left people are telling me that all secular parties must unite with the BJP to bring down the government………. (interruptions). I made a mistake of standing with them once. I did not resign on the question of Gujarat when my conscience told me to do so, and my conscience has still not forgiven me. I need not make that mistake again…”


A scion of one of the most distinguished families of Kashmir, 38-year-old Omar is the son of Farooq Abdullah and grandson of Sheikh Abdullah.


He represents modern India, is energetic and articulate and has made an impact on Indian politics.


As the Assembly elections in Kashmir knock at the doors, all eyes are focussed on him. Heading the National Conference, he is to be watched. Will he be the next Chief Minister of the strife-torn state?


Omar began his political career in 1998, having been elected to the Lok Sabha. In 1999, he was elected to the 13th Lok Sabha and inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as MOS in the External Affairs Ministry, becoming the youngest minister at the Centre.


He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha for the third time in a row from Srinagar and continues to represent the constituency.


The year 2006 was an important year in his political career when he was elected President of the National Conference for the second time. Many eyebrows were raised when he met Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf the same year in Islamabad.


Omar’s growing importance has put him on the terrorists’ hit list; an attempt was made on his life in 2007 but he escaped when suspected terrorists fired two grenades, targeting him.


The militants made a second attempt on his life last year when he was on his way to a girls’ school in Srinagar. They were unable to target him, but attacked the school and school children.


An angry Omar was enraged and his impromptu comment was: “I can’t believe that any religion or any cause, no matter howsoever sacred, justifies attack on innocent schoolgirls”.


Omar would like to see the Kashmiri Pandits , who were forced to leave the valley, return to their homes. He has since been repeatedly saying: “We are constantly striving to create conditions that are conductive for the return of Kahmiri Pandit brothers and sisters. We want them to return with dignity and honour and of their own free will, free from coercion…”.


Will he be able to bring the Pandits back in the event of his party returning to power in the October Assembly elections?