The J&K administration's decision to remove the image of National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, embossed on the J&K police medal for gallantry and meritorious service, has evoked diverse response.
Authorities on Monday announced that the police medal for gallantry and meritorious service will no longer bear the image of Sheikh Abdullah, which will be replaced with the national emblem.
A government order issued on May 23 said, "It is hereby ordered that in modification to Para 4 of the Jammu & Kashmir Police Medal Scheme, the Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah embossed on one side of the medal shall be replaced with the national emblem of the Government of India, and the other side inscribed with the J&K state emblem shall be inscribed as 'Jammu and Kashmir Medal for Gallantry' and 'Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Meritorious Service' in case of gallantry/meritorious medal, as the case may be."
The order came after the UT administration in January 2020 changed the name of the police medal for meritorious service by removing Sher-e-Kashmir, a reference to Sheikh Abdullah, to 'Jammu and Kashmir police medal for gallantry and Jammu and Kashmir police medal for meritorious service'.
After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, Sheikh Abdullah's birthday on December 5 was deleted from the list of public holidays in J&K.
Leaders and activists of the NC argue that the decision to remove Abdullah's name from medals and holiday list is part of BJP's politics, which is aimed at targeting the identity and history of the Kashmiri people.
"What is surprising about this move? It is part of the BJP's larger agenda on Kashmir which has the blessings of the RSS," said a former minister and senior NC leader.
NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar said that such moves will not affect the popularity of the late Sheikh Abdullah.
"You cannot change history by trying to remove names of icons," Dar said.
Interestingly, the arch-rivals and most bitter opponents of the NC in the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have also taken exception to the decision taken by the authorities.
Naeem Akhtar, senior PDP leader and former minister, said, "Sheikh Abdullah is himself history, so erasing him is erasing a phase of history. The decision of accession, the struggle of the people of Kashmir against autocracy and British rule, the resistance against the two-nation theory and the so-called 'roshni ki kiran' (ray of hope), which Gandhiji saw around 1947 from Kashmir was inspired by the late Sheikh Abdullah."
It must be mentioned that from bitter political adversaries, the NC and the PDP have become allies against the BJP as the two are important constituents of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which seeks the restoration of Article 370 and statehood for J&K.
On the other hand, BJP leaders and activists argue that J&K is no fiefdom of the Abdullahs so that every thing official and public must bear the family stamp.
"Is J&K some sort of a fiefdom that you cannot remove the name of a political leader which has crept into officialdom because of the long innings the NC played while ruling the state," asked a senior BJP leader.
The Congress party is against the decision to remove the image of the late Sheikh from the police medal, but argues that J&K is faced with much bigger challenges than the name game being played by political rivals.A
What is most noticeable is that the common man is not interested at all in the controversy.
"You come to power and try to print your own currency. The regime changes and your currency with all its embossing goes into the dust. There's nothing new about this. Times have changed so much that neither party can influence the common man by either opposing the official decision or by supporting it," said Adnan, a university student.
Even elders here believe the name game has already been used to yield enough political dividends in the past.
"Bas naam rahega Allah ka (Only Allah's name is everlasting). Mortals come and go without becoming permanent," said Abdul Gani Mir, a local resident.