“peace with dignity and honour” ... Yes, but ...
It’s a festival time across Kashmir as the holy month of Ramdhan
is in full swing. The time is just ripe. The sun has just mellowed down,
gold has seeped into the valleys, stroked gently with russet, orange and
red. The Chinar (maple) trees are auburn, the orchards laden with apples
and the valley adorned in a saffron cloak. As the new Mufti Sayeed government
has reduced the power cuts from nine hours to just four and a half hours,
the shoppers in this season which is full of autumnal glory, remain out
in the open till late, no hurry to rush back to the safe and secure surrounding
of their respective homes. No Special Operations Group (SOG) or State Task
Force (STF) “terror” looming large on their minds, no frisking or checking
by the Army or para-military force as the Army has recently suspended their
operations and routine checking for this holy month besides lifting the
night curfew. There have been minimum hartals too. As markets are open
till late, Kashmiris go out for shopping even after breaking the fast (Iftaar)
after a long day of fasting. Id is just days away and the apparent change
is already visible. Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik has just been released.
JKLF commander Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, who masterminded the abduction of
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's daughter Rubaiya, has also been set free on bail
after 13 years. So is JKLF commander Nazir Ahmad Sheikh alias Gul Danter
and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mohammad Ayub who too were set free on
bail after 12 years. Stage is also set for the release of hard-liner Syed
Ali Shah Geelani who has been put up in Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi. Not
only the hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris feel the perceptible change
in the situation since the new government assumed power, but the new chief
minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, 67, who nursed the ambition of becoming
the chief minister of the troubled state, (even just for two hours as he
had confided in somebody), feels that “atmosphere has been so relaxed after
my government took over.”
And suddenly it happens. Within a week of his taking over, Mufti government
witnesses a major militancy related incident when eight CRPF men who are
travelling to Jammu from Srinagar, get blown up to pieces as the vehicle
in which they are travelling, hits a powerful IED triggered off by the
militants giving a clear signal that Mufti’s words and actions are not
acceptable to them. Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir valley’s largest and indigenous
militant outfit issues clear state statement saying that whatever Mufti
government is doing, is not justified. “And they won’t stop for anything
short of Azadi”. So does other groups like Jamait-ul-Mujahideen. Lashkar-e-Taiba
, the pan-Islamic terrorist outfit also threatens to step up suicide attacks
on security installations in J&K during Ramdhan. To add to all these,
a strong opposition, this time in the form of National Conference, and
obviously BJP-led NDA government, has started voicing concerns over the
steps initiating by the Mufti which were a part of his elections manifesto.
While the people of Kashmir seem to be “relaxed”,the political observers
however are too worried over these steps initiated by the new chief minister
who is known for his pro-militants leanings. Scrapping of POTA, merger
of SOG into the regular police, release of militants and political prisoners…within
days of its formation, the PDP-led coalition government has come under
sharp criticism from various quarters.
While the state police which was always in the forefront in the fight
against militancy has been handcuffed by announcing the merger of SOG,
a special wing of the state police created for launching anti-militancy
operations against the terrorists along with army, BSF and other para-military
forces, have not undertaken any operations against militants since the
new government took over, the army too has now been forced to stay put,
suspending its regular frisking and checking operations. Its much confusing
for the forces.
“Its lull before the storm. They have started releasing militants, no
operations are being conducted, army is also lying low and thus, it is
giving enough time to the militant groups to resuscitate and rejuvenate,”
says Rajinder Singh Jamwal, Jammu Joint Students federation (JJSF) chairman,
adding the Special Operations Groups was the main information gatherer
and had many spectacular operations to its credit in the past many years.
Not only the state police is feeling demoralized, a major reshuffle
in the police and bureaucratic set up is on the cards with the present
Director General of Police Mr Ashok.K.Suri being shifted (as he is considered
to be pro-National Conference by the present regime). The move is being
seen as a clear-cut signal to those who were close to National Conference
that they would not be tolerated.
Mufti, however, has won many fans in Kashmir. In these past few days
only, the people who felt alienated, are happy with him and have too many
expectations from the new government.
“I pray for him. He will bring peace to Kashmir. See, in this month
of Ramdhan when we used to get up to a dark morning to have our Sehri (snacks
before a complete fasting day), there used to be pitch dark as Farooq Abdullah
government used to give us no power, but now even for both Sehri and Iftaar,
we have power. Its like Diwali for us,”said Haleema, a housewife living
in Srinagar downtown’s Nowhatta area.
Though the shrewd Mufti Sayeed, immediately a day after his swearing
in, took a decision to reduce the power cut to almost half, people in Jammu
feel that it is a part of his agenda to woo Kashmiris by giving them “ a healing touch”. The man who has strongly been advocating “unconditional
dialogue” with terrorists, separatists and Hurriyat leaders, they believe,
has started implementing his separatist agenda. Many of them even go to
the extent of saying that he is now an official spokesman of separatist
conglomerate All Party Hurriyat Conference.
“See, from the day one, he started implementing his agenda. Keeping
Kashmiris happy with no power curtailments, releasing the boys who are
in jails, suspending operations, scrapping POTA…After all these years of
hardships, if an average Kashmiris does not find any Fauji stopping them
for frisking or stopping of their vehicles, won’t he be too happy?”asks
Prof Virender Gupta, Chairman, Jammu Mukti Morcha, an organization striving
for separate statehood for Jammu adding that Mufti is eyeing for Kashmir
which contributes 46 seats to the state assembly.
“At least one thing is clear, this government will not complete a full
term and Mufti knows it well. So he has started implementing his agenda-
that is to strengthen his base in Kashmir so that next time if elections
takes place, at least we can get maximum of 46 seats from Valley”, says
Dr Agnishekhar, convenor, Panun Kashmir.
Analyst believe that even if Mufti has to woo Kashmiri voters at the
cost of Jammu or Ladakh,, he would hardly be bothered. But one factor that
would force him to attend to them is its coalition partner Congress which
has got 15 seats from Jammu. His People’s Democratic Party (PDP) hasn’t
got any seat from Jammu which sends 37 MLAs to the assembly. Ladakh’s four
seats can hardly make any difference to Mufti’s vote bank as all the parties
in Ladakh, irrespective of their affiliations, have formed Ladakh Union
Territory Front (LUTF) to fight for UT status for Ladakh. Its two MLAs
have supported the PDP-Congress coalition. Significantly though,
even if Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is also trying to win friends from Hurriyat
Conference (APHC) by releasing their prisoner leaders “gradually’,(about
45 senior and middle rung Hurriyat leaders are in prisons), yet it may
be extremely difficult for him to woo the separatist conglomerate. There
is a widespread perception that the Mufti’s proximity with the Hurriyat
leaders might help in breaking the ice in the Kashmir problem that has
been haunting the Indian political establishment for over 12 years now.
But it seems difficult too.Though Hurriyat has welcomed the move of releasing
the political prisoner, yet threatened by Mufti having “hijacked “ its
agenda, the APHC, recently discussed this issue in its general council
meeting. Insiders said that the Hurriyat believes that if Mufti continues
at the same pace, it would be a slow poisoning for them as till now, what
they had been asking for, Mufti has started implementing it. Hurriyat,
which faces tremendous threat of getting marginalized, has decided to have
its own Common Minimum Programme focussing on self –determination.
Slogans like “peace with honour”, Goli Nahin Boli Say Baat Banegi (
not bullets but dialogue will help resolve the issue) are easy to chant
but practically speaking it is not easy and is fraught with serious repercussions.
Besides, Centre is already offended with the Mufti government and has
said that the state government has no power to repeal any law (POTA) enacted
by the Parliament.
“Militancy might get a boost by releasing ultras, non-implementation
of POTA and call for cease-fire. It would also lead the militants to equip
themselves and be more prepared," feels Sri Kumar, RSS-backed Jammu State
Morcha chairman which recently contested nine seats in Jammu.Mufti government’s
assurances that all the regions would be treated equally would be treated
equally or that earlier panel reports, such as Wazir Commission (for creating
more districts in Jammu), would be implemented have not convinced JSM chairman.
Infact, Mufti’s adamancy over the issue of having the chief minister
from Kashmir after the 10 October election results, have already created
tremendous regional divide in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the Muslims living
in Jammu now have started believing that they are not welcomed by Kashmiri
Muslims as they are considered with Jammu people. The example
of LAHDC Thupstan Chewang submitting his resignation and then requested
by Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad to come to Jammu and sort out their differences
is also being considered as a desperate step towards balancing the regional
aspirations which otherwise can pose serious challenges to Mufti government.
Thus Mufti will also have to deal with the growing regional aspirations
of the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions. There have already been the
demands for separate statehood to Jammu and union territory status to Ladakh.
Besides, the displaced Kashmiri Pandits have also been demanding their
rehabilitation by setting up a Homeland in Kashmir only. The statehood
movement for Jammu, represented by the Jammu Mukti Morcha has already been
gaining momentum. Although it could not manage any seat in recently concluded
elections, but it has already made its presence felt and played important
role in swinging the balance either way. How the Mufti will be able to
tackle all these problems remains to be seen.