The New Delhi Bear in Kashmir
The “Peoples’ Democratic Party” was formed during the worst ever oppression seen by Kashmiris in the nineties.
The main thrust of the party was to reach the people in different parts of the Valley and try to give them some hope for a better future. Mehbooba Mufti had made it a point to visit the home of every victim of violence. She used to console the relatives of the victims. She even regularly visited the homes of slain militants. Many a times she participated in protests and demonstrations against the wanton killings by the security forces. In a number of photographs she is shown holding placards saying, “Stop the killings”!
In fact, during the first tenure of Mufti Sayeed, on her initiative a number of measures were taken to give a “Healing Touch”. The notorious “Task Force” was disbanded. Harassment of youth was lessened and the nocturnal raids were discontinued by the security forces. A number of bunkers were removed from different places in the city. However, in spite of the ‘healing touch’ policy, there were still incidents of killings and harassment.
Even so then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous quote of solving the Kashmir problem within the humanity parameters, “Insaniyat kay dairay main”, appeared to be taking some shape! The “Cross LOC Bus” for relatives on two sides was started. Trade between two parts of Kashmir commenced. As a goodwill measure, there were some exchanges of traders between the two parts of Kashmir which gave good signs of a sub-continental thaw! There seemed to be some movement forward on the PDP’s Agenda of so called “Self-Rule”. However, it all ended as the Congress refused to concede the PDP’s demand for allowing the Mufti a full six years as Chief Minister, and insisted that Ghulam Nabi Azad became the CM as per the terms of coalition agreed upon in 2002 when the two parties cobbled up an alliance.
The Congress-PDP coalition itself was finally swept away by the 2008 Amarnath land agitation. Farooq Abdullah, as an expert demagogue and master of histrionics went back to the people for another chance.
The NC won and his son,Omar Abdullah became the Chief Minister. Some say on New Delhi’s insistence. Omar Abdullah’s rule was a total disaster especially because of the 2010 Intifada resulting in killing of 120 youth by trigger happy security forces and his alleged connivance in the ‘secret’ hanging of Afzal Guru. He was finally voted out, after the worst natural disaster of the century with an almost comic ending. This had the CM throwing bananas to the people marooned in the floods from the state helicopter, giving him the epithet “Banana Chief Minister”!
The BJP/RSS came to power in Delhi. Kashmir had been devastated by the floods, and the people needed immediate relief and rehabilitation. Had the central government been sincere about relief and rehabilitation it would have postponed the state elections. Instead a massive political assault was mounted on Jammu and for the first time inroads were made into the Kashmir valley. This Hindutva intrusion alarmed the people of the Valley and a wave to resist the BJP was generated. PDP led by its dynamic ground leader Mehbooba Mufti spear-headed the campaign for halting the Hindutva intrusion into the Kashmir Valley. For the first time millions came out to vote with the sole aim of keeping the Hindutva Brigade out of the valley. They gave the largest number of seats (28) to the PDP. All BJP candidates except one lost their deposits. People expected PDP to take a determined stand against the Hindutva wave. However, the reverse happened. Mufti disregarding the popular sentiment tried to bring the North and South Poles together by hugging the Delhi bear. He gambled with the idea of “development” for which, the “Healing” Touch had to be replaced by the “Kneeling Touch”! True to a Kashmiri parable, the “Kakun Haaput”, the Delhi bear fatally mauled him.
Mehbooba Mufti having seen the fate of her father hesitated and dithered but finally decided to follow her father and hug the Delhi bear that has gone berserk since. The NIT incident, followed by Handwara seem to be just the beginning. The extreme alienation of the young visible for a long time is now turning into open support for the militants. And if the BJP/RSS continue pushing their agenda and do not rein in the trigger happy security forces, they may light the fuse for an unprecedented upheaval which may again go beyond the borders of Kashmir!
(Photograph by Basit Zargar)