By Sheikh Qayoom
What would the fate of a human being be if his right hand discards an action taken by the left hand? No laurels for reaching the right conclusion—such a human being would be doomed for life.
And, what be the fate of a society, an organisation and a political system where the various constituents of that system oppose and undo each other? This precisely is the fate of the PDP-BJP ruling coalition in Jammu Kashmir. This is also the reason why nobody in the State or outside envies the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for the crown of thorns she has been wearing after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
A politician who had risen from the ground, as the late Mufti was, he took the biggest risk of his political career by trying to bring together the South Pole and the North Pole. Alas, the two poles have not met either geographically or politically.
To create guarantees for his big gamble, Mufti waited patiently for the BJP to blink, and blink they did, when they agreed to sign the Agenda of Alliance (AoA) with the PDP. Eager to share power in the State, the BJP signed the AoA to pave way for Mufti Sayeed’s ascendance to the CM’s chair. Everybody from New Delhi to Srinagar said the two parties had agreed to share power leaving aside their basic ideological differences. It was widely publicised that the two parties had come to power for equitable development of all the three regions of the State. Untimely death saved Mufti from seeing his AoA falling apart brick by brick and block by block.
Loss of a father is a loss Mehbooba might not be able to overcome all her life. She was not only the dearest child of her father but also the inheritor of his political legacy. After all, it was the father-daughter duo that had painstakingly created a political second space in the mainstream politics of Jammu Kashmir. That second space not only posed a serious threat to the most powerful mainstream party in the State, but also ensured that the National Conference (NC) steps down to play the opposition role in the State’s mainstream politics. No mean achievement for the PDP which was created more than half century after its adversaries in the NC ruled the hearts and minds of Kashmiris.
If getting into power is the main objective of all political parties, the cost paid for getting into power by the PDP today seems totally unaffordable. An unenviable situation has brought the PDP to a place where even getting out of power is not the easy way out for Mehbooba.
After the 2016 agitation, the ground situation has deteriorated to such a level that both remaining in power or giving it up might not help the dwindled political graph of the PDP.
Once seen as the ‘soft face of Kashmiri separatism’ the party of the Muftis has virtually been uprooted from its bastion of south Kashmir. The very areas that swore by the party since 2003 are now up in guns and stones against it. PDP’s allying with the right wing BJP appears to be the last thing on the mind of agitating public in south Kashmir. What’s fresh in the public memory is the huge repression that took place in the five-month agitation that erupted over the killing of Burhan Wani.
It must be mentioned that the agitation sparked by Burhan Wani’s killing was not, in many ways, matched even by the massive protests and rallies seen in the Valley in early 1990s when militancy took the centre stage in Kashmir. Never before in over 28 years long armed insurgency has the death of a militant be mourned or any militant been eulogised so much as Burhan Wani. It was only the jackboot stumping of the agitation that brought in another phase of ‘normalcy’ in the Valley. But, in the process, Mehbooba, who was at the helm no matter whether she was actually calling the shots, virtually dug her party’s own grave.
To her credit, though, Mehbooba is right when she dismisses criticism against her government by saying that cyclic violence in Kashmir is rooted in history and those roots need to be addressed by meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan. The ever-swelling crowds of slogan shouting people in south Kashmir districts and the anger of the youth everywhere in the Valley cannot be the results of a law and order crises.
The tragedy is that the PDP owes it all to its alliance partners in the BJP and not the NC. “Coalition governments always have hiccups,” BJP national general secretary and the party’s architect of the present political dispensation in Kashmir, Ram Madhav, told a media conference in Jammu recently. Looks as if Ram Madhav was trying to play down a heart attack by calling it a mere hiccup.
Nobody even speaks about the AoA and its implementation. The AoA has been reduced to such an insignificant level that cynics now say it is a document signed by none!
Constitutionally, the AoA cannot be even remotely compared to the Delhi Agreement of 1950 which had the constitutional legitimacy of having been signed by the government of India and the government of Kashmir.
If past governments in New Delhi could back out of the Delhi Agreement, what is the problem with the present political dispensation in New Delhi once it backs out of the AoA?
Undoubtedly, aligning with the BJP has been something that the PDP leadership had rightly called “The second accession of the State with India.” Tragic that the terms of this ‘second accession’ are being treated with the same contempt with which the first accession was treated. This is the political tragedy of the PDP and also of the people of Kashmir.
Literally, nothing contained in the AoA has been implemented so far. More than half the time of the present political dispensation has gone by. It is politically naïve for the PDP leadership to expect that the terms of this alliance document would be fulfilled in the remaining period of the coalition’s term of office.
Ironically, the South Pole and the North Pole have not added to the distance between the two geographically. Politically the two poles have, however, definitely drifted further apart in the State.
Nothing could be more disturbing than the sharp wedge between the PDP and the BJP over a human tragedy like the rape and murder of a child in Rasana village of Kathua district. The perpetrators of this heinous crime have shaken the conscience of the entire world and yet we had some of the most powerful ministers in the coalition rallying for the protection of the accused.
What is more tragic than the fact that while the PDP stood firm in bringing the guilty to justice, some of the BJP leaders wanted justice for the victim through the protection of the accused!
In a court of law, the accused have enough time and a legal right to prove their innocence, but many in the BJP argue the investigations in this horrendous crime has been faulty because it was done by the State police’s Crime Branch. Nobody stops to think that if the investigations have been faulty there are better chances for the accused walking out as free men after the trial court delivers its verdict.
Why are some of most influential BJP leaders trying to prove the innocence of the accused out of the court? Trials cannot be held on the road nor can these be held in the debate rooms of the television news channels. Those trying to paint this horrific crime as of a ‘Muslim victim’ and the ‘Hindu accused’ is fraught with the most serious implications not only for the State, but entire India.
Those who carried out this most barbaric and brutal crime cannot be seen as believers of any religion. If murderers had religions then all noble teachings of every religions would have been based on murder and mayhem.
It must have been with the greatest difficulty that Mehbooba stood her ground and forced her allies to dump the supporters of the accused. But, that instead of proving the strength of the ruling alliance has brought out its most fundamental chinks.
The CM convened an all-party meeting to work out some degree of relief for the people of Kashmir who have been losing youth during gunfights or civilian protests. Even before the constitution of an all-party delegation that would call on the Prime Minister with the request of a unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadhan and the ensuing Amarnath Yatra could be worked out, the BJP trashed the proposal as unacceptable, saying that it would be seen as a sign of weakness and also provide the militants time to regroup and recruit.
How does the CM face the opposition or even her own party once the proposal is officially thrown out of the window by New Delhi? Sankarshan Thakur, a much-respected editor of an Indian newspaper whose opinion is respected by Kashmiris and people outside the State, said in one of his editorial comments recently: “You do not shoot the head to cure a migraine?” If Mehbooba Mufti is told to cure a migraine by shooting the head, she would have finally got an answer to the greater tragedy of Kashmiris and the political disaster for her party.
—Sheikh Qayoom is JK chief of bureau of New Delhi-based wire service IANS
This article was published in Kashmir Narrator’s June edition. To subscribe to print edition of Narrator, please call +91-7298102560 or mail at [email protected]