Updated: February 10, 2021 9:07:52 am
Farewells are bittersweet, and those that mark retirements, even more so. On Tuesday, the Upper House of Parliament bid farewell to four leaders who represented the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir — Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Nazir Ahmad Laway (PDP), Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) and Shamsher Singh (BJP). They are unlikely to have successors — a Union Territory without a legislature does not send members to the Council of States. So, their farewell did not merely bid adieu to colleagues and leaders. For the foreseeable future, it was also the last time a voice from India’s northern tip will be heard in the Rajya Sabha.
The celebration of their careers, particularly of Azad’s, who was Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, became a welcome departure from the acrimonious, polarising language that has passed for political exchange in recent times. A visibly emotional Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Azad as a parliamentarian, J&K chief minister, colleague and friend, shedding a tear as he did so. This civility, even affection, is an important reminder that those in Opposition are not opponents. They are colleagues, and each parliamentarian is a legitimate representative of the people of India.
Azad’s own speech was graceful too. He expressed gratitude at having been born in India, and staying here. He asserted his pride at being a “Hindustani Muslim”, a citizen and leader in a country where sectarian divides do not taint public life. That sentiment is something that is well remembered, and perhaps needed in the House, and outside it, more than ever.
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