Mehbooba too is cut from the same old frayed cloth

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Speaking after paying homage to the martyrs of 1931 at the Martyrs Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar area, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti sought people’s support in pulling the state out of the vortex of violence and bloodshed, saying “her heart is overwhelmed with great sadness and sorrow as a result of the killings in the Valley”. She once again accused the elements with vested interests of instigating the protests, calling them more dangerous than the militants who take up guns and fight with the security forces. The CM also called upon the parents to counsel their children not to go out and throw stones.  For people, these words only evoked anger. The implicit message in CM’s belated breaking of her silence is that the killings were outcome of the protesters themselves leaving no option for the security personnel but to fire to kill.  She didn’t own up to the responsibility of her own government in the killings. Just saying that her government will investigate the disproportionate use of force, if any by the government.  This also means nothing. There have been scores of such inquiries in Valley over the past 26 years whose outcome is either pending or has attracted little follow-up action. There is hardly a case where a probe has ended to the satisfaction of the people or where the culprits have been adequately punished. And over the years, this has been a predominant source of the trust-deficit between the successive state governments and the people in Valley. 

Mehbooba’s belated defense of her government may have thus  only served to further indict it. If anything, her explanation has once again attested to the sameness of the mainstream politics in the Valley, if not in Jammu. When around 120 youth – most of them teenagers – were gunned down through 2010, PDP was rightly the loudest in its condemnation.  The party sought the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s immediate resignation, and expressed disbelief that he was coolly presiding over the killings. In response, Omar said little except tweet now and then his regret over the deaths. The then PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was at her shrillest in her opposition to the state of affairs. But now after her own government has been responsible for the killing of 34 persons over three days, Mehbooba has acted hardly any different. She may have expressed her own “anguish” over the killings, but on the whole she has struggled to appear empathetic enough. Her response has been muted and more in the nature of addressing a routine problem. And very unlike that of her coalition partner BJP’s  towards the lathi-charge of the outstation students at NIT Srinagar. And also unexpected of her given her three month refusal to  become CM unless centre announced some Confidence Building Measures for the state.

But can it be traced to Mehbooba’s failure or to the inevitable outcome of the entrenched structure of the state’s polity? It could be both. Perhaps more a structural problem than the undoing of Mehbooba. But some leaders do override the structures. Not so in Valley, though.    But how one longs for a brush with this kind of politics in J&K. Except for fewer fleeting interludes, the politics in the state has been predictable, banal, feudalistic and morally compromised, confined to dynasties and the elite sections of the society. For a moment, Mehbooba had appeared different. But as the killings have now made clear, she too is cut from the same old frayed cloth.

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