Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on August 8, among many other things, said that Article 370 had given only corruption to Jammu and Kashmir. He also said that the dynastic politics in the valley had prevented other young leaders from emerging and with the abrogation of Article 370, the time has come for local youth to bring their leadership qualities to politics.
Have the signs of the old political order in the state running into trouble and making space for a younger generation already appeared? Earlier, since Article 370 remained a hurdle stopping laws made in Parliament from reaching J&K, there were no avenues to question the misuse of public money and corruption by the political leaders of J&K.
Now that the transparency related laws can reach the valley without any hindrance, here are the cases pertaining to J&K political order that may land them in trouble.
Skeletons in the Cupboard of Abdullahs?
Let’s start with the oldest family that has played its role in politics of J&K from the beginning, the Abdullahs. The Enforcement Directorate has already questioned former J&K chief minister and National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah on charges of alleged money laundering and embezzlement of more than Rs 100 crore of J&K Cricket Association of which he was the president.
In November 2018, another political party of J&K, Peoples Conference in a press conference threw this logical question at Abdullah family for which nobody seems to have any answer. They asked–
“Who was Sheikh Abdullah? A teacher from Soura. What did Omar Abdullah inherit from his grandfather? Today Abdullah family owns a house in London, a house in southern France, a house in New Delhi, and a house in Gurgaon besides the houses at Gupkar road. Omar and Farooq Abdullah have two to three luxuries cars worth crores of rupees and wear clothes worth lakhs. In Delhi they are referred to as ‘Sheikhs of Kashmir’ and they own property worth thousands of crores. Where did all that money come from?”
Law May Catch Up with Mufti
Anti-Corruption Bureau has already sent notice to Mehbooba Mufti over her role in key appointments in J&K Bank.
Mehbooba Mufti along with Omar Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad, retain their rent-free government bungalows in Srinagar. As per media reports, Omar and Mehbooba cumulatively spent nearly Rs 50 crore on their respective bungalows when they were in government. There is also an allegation that a large amount of public money was spent in renovating even the private house of Mehbooba’s father and former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at Nowgam in the outskirts of Srinagar.
In May 2018, when the Supreme Court quashed an Uttar Pradesh law that guaranteed all former CMs of the state an official bungalow each for life, it had said that its ruling covers all the other states. Because of Article 370, J&K has remained the only state where an ex-CM could stay on in an official bungalow without even paying rent.
Now the law will catch up to play the role of an equalizer.
Writing on the Wall for Politics of Separatism
In the aftermath of Pulwama attack, IT department conducted a series of raids on the houses of separatists. It was reported that the department had found clinching evidence of huge unaccounted expenditure incurred in cash on the reconstruction and remodelling of the residential premises of tax evaders.
You may read about the systematic crackdown of terror financing in the valley in our article The Banning of Jamaat-e-Islami in J&K: An All-out Crackdown on Terror Infrastructure. Our article A Picture That Captures Modi Government’s J&K Policy deliberates further on how the measures to alienate separatist forces had begun much before the abrogation of Article 370.
The fact that the sons and daughters of separatists are enjoying their fortunes in foreign countries while the common people in Jammu and Kashmir suffered, raises the questions about their source of money.
So, it is indeed an opportunity for J&K to find a new political order which is free of corruption and has a penchant for development. The government has ensured that this could be possible by conducting peaceful elections to Panchayats and urban local bodies in J&K, which have already become instrumental in taking the Central government schemes to villages. You may read the details in our article Back to the Village – Is the Monopoly of Abdullahs and Muftis Being Ended by Governance?.