Where is Agenda of Alliance?

As if so far the message of the faltering alliance agenda of the PDP-BJP coalition hadn’t been received well in Kashmir, that the home minister Rajnath Singh again rubbed it in. On his visit to the state to pay obeisance at the cave shrine of Amarnath on the first day of the annual yatra, Singh reiterated that the centre had no plan to revoke AFSPA, nor any intention to talk to the separatists. Though he couched his statements in diplomatic terms, mouthing the clichéd line that the AFSPA repeal would have to wait till a conducive environment was created in the state, or that the centre will talk to anybody but will not tolerate anti-national activities, the message was unmistakable: that New Delhi has no plans to either withdraw AFSPA or even talk to separatist groups. Had it not been for the exaggerated expectations created by the hyped Agenda of Alliance which became a basis for the PDP joining hands with BJP, Singh would be only stating the obvious. 

In past, every effort by the elected Kashmiri leaders to prevail on the centre to accede to at least a gradual revocation of the AFSPA from the now militancy-free areas has been stonewalled by the defence ministry. Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who at one time had promised the revocation of the Act in one week ran up against the same wall. But for  PDP, the coalition with BJP was premised on the written assurances from the party that there will be a forward movement on not only the AFSPA but that a process will also be set in motion for the larger resolution of Kashmir issue. But none of it is in evidence. There has, in fact, been a point by point unravelling of the Agenda of Alliance with BJP going back on all its commitments. And perhaps none of the promises has seen more unceremonious unravelling than the Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s policy  of the battle of ideas. Far from allowing separatist political groups any space, the coalition government has squeezed it more drastically than even the NC-Congress government did. BJP has also ensured that Mufti is not allowed any room to do his own natural politics, something that had distinguished him through 2002-03 term as head of a PDP-Congress coalition. There is no Healing Touch and no  Goli Se Nahi Boli Se approach in play.  BJP is yielding no quarter for Mufti’s familiar engagement-driven brand of politics. This has, as a result, created a deep impasse:  A political status quo hangs over the state which is zealously guarded by both the parties and purveyed as their respective achievement. 

PDP plays up the fact that it forced the saffron party to stall its plan to abrogate Article 370 and go slow on the citizenship rights to  West Pakistan Refugees, and BJP brags about stopping an allegedly soft-separatist party in its tracks. The result is a dead-end, a status quo, which has once again created an endemic sense of hopelessness. Throw in the centre’s callous withholding of a generous package for the flood-hit and you get a lethal mix of the desperation and anger that makes today’s Kashmir such a fraught place. And if nothing substantive is done to give people a sense of hope, it won’t be long before the situation once again takes a turn for the worse.  This makes it incumbent on the coalition to get its act right. The obligation is more for PDP which being the single-largest party and also the one predominantly elected from Valley needs to articulate and reflect the aspirations and the grievances of its constituency.

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