Going by the egregious ideological rifts surmounted by the PDP-BJP coalition in its two year rule, Tuesdays tussle over the Article 370 seemed minor in comparison. But it came close to divesting the alliance of all its rationale.
The stage for the confrontation was set by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s speech in Assembly on Monday in which she slammed the efforts being made to weaken the Article 370.
In an obvious message to BJP and its allied outfits, Mehbooba said that anybody weakening Article 370, which grants special status to the state, will be doing the biggest anti-national act. She said that there were some forces within this country who mistakenly think that by scrapping Article 370, the issue of Kashmir will be resolved and everything will be alright.
A day after, the BJP members created a ruckus in Assembly. Despite being an alliance partner, the members sought expunging of the CM’s remarks to which the speaker Kavinder Gupta readily agreed. And speaker’s decision, in turn, triggered a pandemonium in the house with both the opposition and the ruling PDP members taking exception to it.
Article 370 has been the fundamental bone of contention between BJP and the PDP. While PDP and NC wants its further strengthening and the restoration of its diluted clauses, BJP wants its complete abrogation. That is why a compromise on the Article 370 was fundamental to the efforts to form this ideologically divergent alliance. While PDP, a putative soft-separatist party, played up the fact that it stalled Sangh Parivar bid to repeal Article 370, BJP moved the political discourse on Kashmir away from the resolution of the dispute to the integration of the state into India. BJP also reneged on all its commitments such as the revocation of AFSPA, , return of power projects, initiating dialogue with separatist groups or the aid for flood-hit which was inordinately delayed.
Besides, over the past ten months, RSS-linked NGOs and the activists have filed petitions against features of the Article 370 and the J&K Constitution with an aim to dilute the state’s unique position in India. In an order on one such petition by a BJP leader, J&K High Court stayed the implementation of its single-bench’s order mandating the simultaneous flying of the national and J&K flag.
Actions like these are seen in Kashmir as targeted assaults on the Article 370 and PDP by being to be a part of the coalition is seen as an accomplice in this project. This has not only eroded the support base of PDP in its core constituency in Valley but has also created a deep anxiety about the identity. The paranoia about a perceived hostile centre allegedly conspiring to dilute Valleys Muslim majority character has redrawn the discourse in Valley like never before. It has brought into full play the issues of land and identity, hitherto more or less dormant elements of the ongoing conflict which operated so far largely along political and militant dimensions. As BJP has let it be known, it wont stop at anything and will press ahead with all the force and vigor at its command to undermine the special status of J&K. It is time for PDP to draw a line.
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