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My Days in Bombay: When Die Was Cast To Dismiss Farooq Govt

 

Nostalgia

  Toppling Game

Watching It from Bombay

 

It had become a routine with me – something instinctive.   Sitting in my office chambers on the third floor of the Chicago Building, in Fort, Bombay in the morning the first thing I inquired from the office boy was if the postman had delivered the usual stuff. I was not curious to know if there was any official communication in the post that needed immediate attention but if there were any newspapers from the native land.    Those were literally “incommunicado” days, then there was not even direct dialling between Bombay and Srinagar, and making a trunk call was nerve shattering, sometime it took days for getting a connection. Those days, my only connection with politics in the state were two newspaper, an Urdu daily Aftab  from Srinagar and an English daily, Kashmir Times from Jammu. These stale newspapers, three to four days after their publication were for me as fresh as the newspapers published in the afternoon in the commercial capital. I read these newspapers from the first page to the last page; even some classified ads did not escape my attention- some, of course, was as good as a missive from home.  Those days, some very good newspapers like the ‘Independent’ and the ‘Mid-Day’ had been added to the plethora of newspapers published from the metropolis. Nonetheless, Kashmir politics perhaps was not of much an interest to the readers of these newspapers, so it was rarely reported. Occasionally, one would find tourism related single column news item in the Mid-Day.
Many a time craving for news in the capital and appetite for what they call ‘ploughman’s lunch’ took me to the Bombay Press Club. For plenty of restaurants and roadside fast food, Kala Ghoda my office area was a food connoisseur’s paradise. It had food for every palate. The natives and tourists alike enjoyed Pav Bhaji, Vada pavs, Panipuri and Bhelpuri.  There was hardly a cuisine from Mughlai, Punjabi, Mulvane, and Continental that was not served in restaurants. Some big names in eateries specialized in Lebanese, Italian, and Chinese food, etc.     Established, in the sixties in long barrack type structure with a façade of large glass windows overlooking the vast Azad Maidian the Press Club for its ambiance was unique- it had its charm.  Christened as ‘the Glass House,’ during the monsoon it was mesmerizing- of course, intoxicating and boozers utopia.
One afternoon, in late February or early March of 1984, one of my colleagues who looked after the PR of the state in the capital city and I were relishing our brunch in the press club that a journalists friend pounced on our table, there is a press conference of the Congress leaders from Kashmir Mufti Syed and Azad in the hall- why don’t you join. Except, once with a group of student in the early seventies, I had never ever met Mufti Syed, for sure I knew he did not know me. Azad had been my contemporary on the University Campus. He every so often visited our Department to meet his friend   Basharat Ahmed, a spotlessly Khadi wearing, Charminar smoking one year senior to me- a Youth Congress activists like him. Perhaps, I had never talked to him; surely I believed he does not recognize him.
Kashmir politicians holding a press conference at this point of time in Bombay was significant for a variety of reasons, one in the first week of February, an Indian Diplomat, Ravindra Mhatre a man from Bombay had been murdered in Birmingham and in the second week of the month incarcerated JKLF leader Mohammad Maqbool had been hanged in Tihar jail.  So, I decided to sit at the press conference. The duo Congress leaders had arrived in the press conference with a huge carton of radio photos.  Before, talking to the news men in the hall, the photographs were released.   In one of the pictures, Farooq Abdullah was administering the oath to Abdul Khaliq Ansari, with Maqbool Bhat standing on their side. In another strip, Abdullah was taking oath from Amanullah Khan, (who had been arrested in London) and in the third picture, Dr. Abdullah was seen standing with Amanullah Khan.  Making a case for dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah government, the congress leader presented a list of charges against chief minister denouncing him anti-India. Two allegations that top the list included, ‘his standing between India and Kashmir’, ‘instead of forming an alliance with the Congress for fighting anti-national and pro-Pakistan’ he joined hand with Molvi Farooq, who always has pro-Pakistan sentiment and still does not accept the finality of accession, we the Congress had never an alliance with him. Moreover, Dr. Abdullah heart is with JKLF.’  In the press conference, it was more than obvious that die had been cast when he had said that the Congress was not in succession and hinted towards a family coup…..

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