Mehbooba Mufti, after her meeting with Narendra Modi, in a press statement, was not her usual defiant self. In a diminutive tone and almost pleading tone, she beseeched the protestors to give her a chance. Mehbooba called attention to her “being there” for the young kids who would seek help from her when the infamous task force would harass them. She also stated that while the kids might be angry with her, she could also be angry with them. Blaming Pakistan for “fomenting” trouble in the vale of Kashmir, she went on to state that only those who were interested in dialogue should be engaged with and also paid a tribute to Indian democracy, stating that India’s democracy had room and space. What this space and who this space was for was left unstated.
The post Modi meet press conference was a sharp contrast to the media interaction that Mehbooba had with local journalists called in the wake of Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit.
The question is what explains the “shift” in Mehbooba’s tone and what is to be made of her assertions?
Because we are not privy to what transpired between Modi and Mehbooba, we can only speculate about the shift in tone. It may be that Mehbooba may have been berated about her tone and content of her address to reporters in Kashmir. The media interaction in contention was a disaster and given the angry defiance and even threats that Mehbooba made, in all likelihood could carry a political price-something that the BJP will not countenance given that the alliance with the PDP has given the far right party a foot hold in Kashmir. This may explain what amounts to a “volte face” on part of Mehbooba.
The larger inferences that can be gleaned or made from Mehbooba’s plea are that the Chief Minister feels besieged and clueless. She appears to have failed to understand the wellsprings and fount of anger in Kashmir. The anger, catalyzed by the killing of Burhan Wani, was initially a bit diffuse but has gradually become concentrated against the Indian state and after the saga of killings is now personal- against Mehbooba. Mehbooba’s reaction towards this appears to be in the nature of veering towards and relying on the Centre; however, this approach is short sighted. If at all there could be redemption for Mehbooba and her party, it lay in parting ways with the Centre and resigning- a risky gambit, in the short term, but she could have done a salvage job. The continuation with the same dispensation and thence the government appears to be premised on the calculation that after protests die down, Mehbooba and her party could cannibalize government and governance to pacify the people. Another factor could be to use government and governance to deny space to her major political opposition, the National Conference. The decision to continue with the government is, however, a short sighted and short termist one. Anger has been now transformed into hatred and both will be etched onto the collective and historical memory of Kashmiris- especially the younger cohort of Kashmir.
Another assertion of Mehbooba where she has blamed Paskistan for stoking trouble in Kashmir is imprudent and betrays lack of judgment. It may be recalled here that Mehbooba’s late father, Mufti Sayyeed, had thanked Pakistan for the smooth conduct of elections in the vale. But his daughter goes whole hog in attributing blame to Pakistan in conditions which have emerged rther spontaneously and are indigenous to Kashmir. What Mehbooba is trying to do here is inexplicable.
All in all then except for the diminutive and pleading tone which among other things appears to be also a damage control exercise after the disastrous media interaction in Kashmir a couple of days ago, there is nothing substantive that Mehbooba has stated. The post Modi meeting press conference has been a repetition of clichés and platitudes. In this sense it harks backs to politics as usual- the only difference this time being that Mehbooba met the Prime Minister of India. What will be the implications and consequences of politics as usual? Nothing except that Kashmir and Kashmiris emotional universe will be further hardened and while things might revert to “normal” at some point in time, Kashmir will remain simmering- akin to a pressure cooker which can explode again anytime.
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