Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2016-08-29 12:30:37 Published on Aug 29, 2016
It is clear that the CM Mehbooba Mufti has run out of ideas to deal with the situation in J&K and is looking for a way out from New Delhi.
Has Mehbooba Mufti run out of ideas to deal with J&K?

After meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi < class="aBn" tabindex="0" data-term="goog_909357065">< class="aQJ">on Saturday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made a plaintive appeal to Kashmiri protesters: “Please give me one more chance!”

This is a changed Mehbooba, a far cry from her “angry young woman” image.

It is clear that she has run out of ideas to deal with the situation and is looking for a way out from New Delhi — which, to go by the statements of PM Modi’s point man, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh — is in the same boat.

Now the system will trot out that old favourite, as an all party delegation visit J&K.

This will follow the scenario of 1990. < class="aBn" tabindex="0" data-term="goog_909357066">< class="aQJ">Within two months of the Valley exploding, the clueless and floundering V. P. Singh government also sent in an all party delegation to study the situation.

Led by Rajiv Gandhi, the newly minted Leader of Opposition, the delegation achieved little except to score points against the government and the governor.

Looking back, it probably succeeded in making the situation worse.

The government is left with the “nuclear option” — arrest everyone suspected of being an “over ground worker” (OGW) of the Hizbul Mujahideen and other militant organisations, and relentlessly enforce the curfew, regardless of the cost.

The government hopes that these harsh measures will dampen the fires. Perhaps they will, but they could equally lead to a meltdown and give rise to a new phase of armed militancy.

As it is, the prospect of shooting youngsters aged 10 or 12 is not a particularly savoury one. But the government feels it is not left with much of a choice.

So a massive augmentation of security forces in the Valley is underway, particularly in southern Kashmir where the J&K Police system has collapsed.

The shooting of a policeman in Pulwama < class="aBn" tabindex="0" data-term="goog_909357067">< class="aQJ">on Friday could presage a new round of attacks to neutralise the J&K Police, which is the key provider of intelligence to the central forces.

Mehbooba, always quick to anger, signaled her attitude at the joint press conference with Rajnath Singh in Srinagar, when she claimed that only five per cent people were involved in the disturbances.

On Saturday, after meeting the PM, she blamed Pakistan for instigating them.

Addressing the press thereafter she seemed to balance her anger at the protesters with their anger towards her.

Long-time observers note that Mehbooba and the PDP have indeed angered the populace because they have allied with the BJP.

What was, for the want of a better phrase, called “soft separatism”, is what made up the DNA of the People’s Democratic Party.

The rival National Conference and its leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah have never given any quarter to separatists, soft or hard.

So, Mehbooba carved out a niche in Kashmiri politics, with the guidance of her wily father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who had actually been a long-time Congress leader.

The Muftis put forward the idea of “self rule” which they said could well be equated with the “azadi” that the militants sought.

This gelled well with the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf negotiations which had set “selfrule” as a goal within the existing boundaries of the state.

The BJP-PDP alliance is a consequence of the outcome of the state assembly polls in 2014.

But the supporters of the PDP have seen this as a betrayal of sorts. Where her wily father could manage to keep an even keel, Mehbooba has floundered.

Of course, she cannot be blamed for Burhan Wani’s killing. But the killing itself is incidental.

If it wasn’t Wani, some other event would have triggered the uprising. The fact is that southern Kashmir, the erstwhile stronghold of the PDP, was ripe for a explosion, and it happened when it did.

So where do we go from here? The government will, in all likelihood, succeed in crushing this uprising with the use of force.

But it is more difficult to determine the consequences of this course. Will it push the Valley towards a new direction of Islamism?

A great deal depends on how effectively the government synchronises its tough policy towards violent protest with moves to work out a long-term settlement in the Valley.

If there is no synchronisation, then things could go from bad to worse.

If, on the other hand, the government does what it says it wants to do — follow the track initiated by Vajpayee — then it must simultaneously reopen dialogue with Pakistan and begin serious negotiations with the parties of the Valley such as the NC and the PDP on the issue of “self-rule” or autonomy.

This could be well within the bounds of what the BJP considers acceptable, except that it would mean some change in its current hawkish Pakistan policy.

This commentary originally appeared in Mail Today.

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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