Cabinet Meeting At LoC: Expensive Picnic Or Bid To Scrap AFSPA

Cabinet Meeting At LoC: Expensive Picnic Or Bid To Scrap AFSPA

29 May 2012
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s decision to chair his cabinet’s special meet in Tangdhar, a remote village closer to the Line of Control, has drawn flak from various quarters of Kashmiri society. But many see it as a wise move to convince New Delhi over scrapping of AFSPA. This first ever meeting, according to the ruling National Conference, “will take governance to the doorsteps of the poor and the forgotten sections.” Abdullah’s opponents, however, find the decision “laughable” to the extent of being an “expensive picnic.” Tangdhar, 140 Kms north of Srinagar, is an isolated Township in Kupwara district. The area has been the longtime victim of maladministration and is still reeling under issues related to electricity, healthcare and communication. “It’s like the King rides a high elephant and leads the Durbar to a place where people have never tasted the fruit of being the subjects,” a visibly agitated resident told Kashmir Observer over phone from Tangdhar. Nayeem Akhtar, spokesman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, is sure that Abdullah might have got a new SUV car in his stable, which Akhtar dubs richest in the country, and “he would be eager for a long test drive.” “The government will have to deploy security along the 100 Km stretch and the CM would be carrying along a huge entourage. This is laughable, at best an expensive picnic.” The newly appointed spokesman of the ruling National Conference, Tanveer Sadiq says, “People used to wander to seek government attention but Omar sahib is approaching the people along with his entire government.” Observers here attribute two main reasons to this off-route cabinet meet. “When a chief minister along with his whole cabinet and top officials would travel (if at all he chooses a drive over his tired helicopter) all the way to Tangdhar, which is just ahead of LoC, it highlights the levels of normalcy. This would be another way of telling New Delhi that his demand fro scraping tough army law was too genuine to be ignored.” Some Kashmir watchers believe that Omar might have got upset with the negative projection of his government’s public rapport in the just released report by interlocutors. “He will now try to innovate, try to rebuild what was lost in the din of his twitter-induced politics.” Tangdhar, the venue for the meeting, is an isolated town situated 130 Kms north of Srinagar, closer to the 740 Km long Line of Control – the de-facto border between Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir. “We have a road here that leads to Teetwall, the last village before LoC. No government in past forty years cared to develop it. We can see mobile phone towers and good roads across the river Kishenganga on Pakistani side. But here the telephone talk is banned and roads are horrible,” says Aadil, a local resident. As is the practice, the cabinet meetings decide on postings and transfers of bureaucrats or commissioning of development projects. “If the government has thought of a radical development plan for Tangdhar then it would be reasonable to do that in Tangdhar. If they need to decide how to negotiate with the employees who are agitated over pay cuts or retirement age, going to such a far off place is a poorly conceived PR stunt,” says the columnist Javed Naqeeb who writes for local newspapers.