Mainstream politics is showing its ugly face in Jammu and Kashmir as two mainstream parties — the ruling National Conference (NC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) — are embroiled in a fresh controversy involving a caricature of ministers on the social networking website Facebook.
The poster of the Bollywood hit 3 Idiots has been morphed to spoof Kashmir’s first family through its scions — the late Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah — describing them as “betrayers of Kashmiris.”
The picture has been tagged as a Government of India film directed by Pandit Nehru, Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah. It was put up on Facebook and may have not been noticed, but the NC rank and file was enraged after PDP president Mehbooba Mufti reportedly sent an SMS to some journalists asking them to see it.
While NC activists took out processions in Jammu and Srinagar and burnt effigies of Ms. Mufti, the party’s top brass — including Finance Minister A.R. Rather and Ajay Sadhotra — addressed a hurriedly convened press conference seeking an explanation from her.
“She has said that someone sent her the SMS. It is not that simple. It can cause rioting throughout the State,” Mr. Rather said, adding that Ms. Mufti needed to explain it and that “she should know that we can sue her.”
Even as Omar Abdullah and his father are silent over the issue, other NC leaders are restless and demanding nothing less than an apology from Ms. Mufti. The picture has circulated throughout the State over e-mail and people are making inquiries about it.
Sources told The Hindu that NC leaders are meeting again to deliberate upon the issue, and the women’s wing of the party may take out a march on Monday when the Assembly resumes. Party members are also planning to seek an apology from Ms. Mufti, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Assembly and will be present there on Monday.
Ms. Mufti added a new twist to the controversy, saying the NC was diverting the people’s attention from ground realities that are full of mismanagement and misgovernance.
“I have not created any SMS. But the National Conference has stooped to such a level to involve its leader who is no more in this world. I am ready to face any defamation suit from the NC,” she said, adding: “Basically, the NC is frustrated as they have failed on the ground. Instead of browsing Facebook, they should work on the ground and provide good governance to the people.”
The PDP chief advised the ruling party leaders to channelise their energies to address the people’s grievances at the ground level. “The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been sliding back to the pre-2002 situation, but the ruling party has been wasting time on Facebook,” Ms. Mufti said.