Mehbooba fails Handwara


Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has run into two successive crises in her first week itself. She has jumped from the NIT frying pan into Handwara fire. But by the end of it she may not have acquitted herself well. CM had to go from pillar to post in New Delhi to ensure that the Army personnel were acted against. She got the “assurance” from the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for a “time-bound probe” but nobody sets much store by that in Kashmir. This is despite the fact that the Army has ordered an enquiry into the incident. In past, such assurances have meant little.
Talking to media, Mehbooba was exuberant about her meetings with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the Defence Minister. She also announced the compensation for the families of the slain youth but thoughtlessly added that “they are very poor people”. This remark undermined the dignity of the four deceased. What is appalling is that the sense of outrage has been conspicuous by its absence among the mainstream political class including the ruling party. The kind of the outrage that provoked the BJP-led central government to send an MHRD team to NIT to bolster the confidence of the outstation students after the lathi-charge by the local police. The kind of outrage that forced the state government to replace local police at NIT with the CRPF to give a sense of security to the non-local students.
But no such attention or the concern was expressed for the families of the four people who lost their lives in Handwara. Chief Minister is yet to go there. She may never go fearing the backlash of the people there. This is such an about-turn from a leader who has built her political stock and the standing by visiting the families of the killed people, including those belonging to the militants. 
This helplessness of their so called elected leaders creates such a mass sense of siege and the helplessness in Valley.   However, this is not a new phenomenon. In its earlier ten year stint with BJP under the seasoned Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s leadership, PDP has looked tame and self-effacing while BJP has aggressively championed its agenda.  PDP has looked apologetic and subdued, something that is deeply disempowering for a significant section of the state’s population whose aspirations it claims to represent as the single largest party. More so, when the opposition National Conference – having irreparably discredited itself by similar actions in power –  is in no position to fill in this vacuum. 
The point is who represents Kashmir’s urges, aspirations, anxieties, paranoias, sensitivities, etc between the absolute separatism and the elementary governance. Who represents Kashmir’s many political and social faultlines? Nobody. If discrimination can be an issue in Jammu and Ladakh, why can’t it be a political issue in Kashmir? More so, when there are reasons to believe that it exists in case of the other two regions.
The point is not to create regional or communal polarization or pit Kashmir against Jammu or the rest of India but to reflect  and give voice to a sense of political and social injustice that originates on a day on day basis and could simmer and blow up into a violent outpouring if left unattended and unacknowledged.   And at the end of the day, isn’t this what politics is all about; not about providing roads and employment – that is what even bureaucrats can do –  but representing, responding and articulating the  people who have issues of survival, identity and empowerment. And this is what Mehbooba has failed to do in her first week as CM, belying the expectations that she had raised by holding out to New Delhi for two and a half months before accepting power.


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