Mehbooba Mufti’s anger  

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For the past some days, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has been making some strident noises against the centre. Two issues that appear to have  made her uneasy are  petition in Supreme Court against Article 35A and the Hurriyat arrests. Talking about the former at a conclave organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals, titled Understanding Kashmir, the CM warned the centre against tinkering with the constitutional provision, saying if it was somehow diluted, even the mainstream parties in the state would find it impossible to raise Indian flag in Kashmir. And speaking about the arrests, Mehbooba said that they were only “an administrative measure” and won’t resolve anything. Later, hardening her stance further at the PDP’s 18th Raising Day, Mehbooba criticised the recent arrests of separatist leaders, saying, “You cannot kill an idea. You cannot jail an idea”.

Some PDP leaders are also sore that the arrests have killed the hope of an internal political outreach in Valley, confining the efforts to address the current turmoil exclusively to the use of force. A taste of this unhappiness was allegedly also experienced first-hand by the team of NIA at Srinagar airport after they had formally arrested seven Hurriyat leaders and were flying them to New Delhi. The J&K Police personnel posted there are said to have barred them from taking Hurriyat leaders along after finding that the agency lacked the necessary paperwork to do so. The police, reports have said, wanted the NIA to question the leaders in Srinagar itself and not shift them to New Delhi because of the apprehended political fallout of the development in Valley. The standoff lasted for sometime until ministry of home affairs stepped in and resolved the issue with the state administration.

The arrests have thus been a source of embarrassment  for the PDP which has always wanted the BJP to take forward the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s line  on Kashmir. But to the party’s dismay this hasn’t happened.  The PDP’s problem is also that so far the centre’s actions in the state have subsumed the party’s politics and the agenda to that of the BJP. The dialogue with the separatists was one of the major understandings in the Agenda of Alliance  between the parties that had lent a modicum of justification to the coalition. But far from engaging Hurriyat, the BJP has chosen to go after them, something that the PDP has found hard to reconcile and explain in Kashmir.  

Among the party’s ranks, there is also the apprehension that the action against Hurriyat leaders and the attempt to delegitimize them will create an unhelpful vacuum in separatist politics which will be filled in by the hardliners in militant ranks and the protesters on the streets.  So far, the NIA has made no differentiation in its action against the separatist leaders. Both hardliners and moderates have been equally targeted. Shabir Shah who has a moderate reputation has also been booked. While Mehbooba has made her displeasure known, the BJP seems in no mood to make amends. It has decided to go whole hog against the separatists and the party seems also intent on diluting the Valley’s special status. What people in Kashmir need from their leaders is not the rhetoric alone but the action too.

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