Mehbooba Mufti’s handling of crisis under scanner
Having weathered the storm of the civilian protests, the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir may now very well go-on-to complete its full term in office. The iron-fist approach to deal with what has been termed as an “uprising” has taken the intensity out of it – 86 people have died, 11,000 are said to injured thousands have been jailed — like its predecessor NC-Congress did in 2010. But it has come at a cost.
With an unlikely ally in shape of BJP, Mehbooba Mufti has managed to hold on to power despite mass protests and friction within the party which came out in the form of resignation from one of the founding members of the party and MP, Tariq Hameed Karra . But she hasn’t managed to escape unscathed. The wave of civilian protests and her handling of the situation has put a question mark on Mufti and her party’s role in valley’s politics.
As described by PDP’s outgoing senior leader and MP, Karra “the buffer party” of between the two extreme ideologies – Azaadi and full integration with India – has lost that stature. Karra, who resigned on 16 September said at a press conference “the seeds of deceit, disillusionment and disenchantment were sown in the minds and hearts of people the day the PDP tied an alliance with the BJP …it was an unnatural alliance.”
While the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with the army triggered the wave of civilian protests, experts believe the animosity towards the PDP-BJP government had already been building.
“When PDP and BJP came together to form the government there was a lot of talk on the ‘Agenda of Alliance’. But the focus of the government somehow completely shifted to Sanik colonies and other sensitive issues,” says professor Gul Wani, a valley based political analyst.
“From the very beginning, the PDP’s alliance with BJP didn’t augur well with the people in the valley. The party (PDP) had exhorted votes in the 2014 on the promise of keeping the saffron party out of power in Kashmir but then it did a complete u-turn, which initially fuelled the resentment of the people,” explains Wani.
The prolonged stutter to form the coalition for the second time with BJP after the death of party patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayyed was perhaps an indication of the reality on the ground setting in.
At the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar where the majority of the injured have been treated over the last two months of protest, Tajamul Ahmed , 39, lays in the corner bed of the ophthalmology ward. His left eye has suffered serious damage after being hit by a pellet on Eid during a protest rally in Handwara town in North Kashmir.
Ahmed was one of the rare one at the hospital who acknowledged that he had cast his vote for PDP during the 2014 assembly elections. “I didn’t know she (Mehbooba) will do zulm on her own people. She has broken all her promises,” he says.
Asked if he would cast his vote for the party again, Ahmed swears by the gods not to vote for any party anymore. “What is the point of that?” he asks.
Mehbooba and her party’s since its inception had portrayed itself as a party that believed in soft separatism. Back in 2010, when Omar Abdullah had to face the ire of the civilians in a similar wave of protest, Mehbooba had been very vocal about the use of force against the civilians. She wanted a ban on pellet guns and until gaining power had vociferously called the government to deliver justice to those killed by forces.
Yet, while she has proceeded over the state in one of the most intense protests, she has done exactly what she had accused her predecessor of. For this, she has faced flak not only from the opposition leader and political commentators and sometimes party members. But most importantly her changed stance has left people she claims to represent disillusioned about her party and politics.
After a youth, Shabbir Ahmed Mir was allegedly shot from point blank at his home, in Tengpora area of Batamaloo Srinagar, the Chief Judicial Magistrate had on July 18 directed the SSP to file an FIR against DSP Yasir Qadri and others on an application of Mir’s father. But what took many by surprise was the state’s approach to Supreme Court to stay contempt proceedings initiated against police officials.
At his home Shabbir’s father, Abdul Rehman Mir speaks softly. He doesn’t want to say anything about the day his son was killed. From the window of his single storey house, he just points to the spot in yard where he claims Shabbir had been shot.
“The whole system is against us. There is no one we can plead to. They are all the same,” he says.