Mehbooba Mufti deserves time to prove herself

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Amid a political vacuum which had caused unending despondency among the people of the State eighteen years ago, a small group of like-minded people joined hands with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to form the People’s Democratic Party. The political and security situation those days was motley of confusion and chaos. Mufti saheb volunteered to take Kashmir out of the abyss.

In search of like-minded people for this new political intervention in Kashmir, he discovered one right in his family- hardworking daughter Mehbooba Mufti who quickly understood her father’s ambitious political detour in troubled Kashmir.

At that time, none could believe that Mufti saheb’s seemingly utopian idea of an alternative political platform which would have roots into the State’s political landscape but aims high transcending borders.

The gun, which our youth took for “Aazadi” had, boomeranged. Deaths, injuries, jails, torture-this is what our youth have been suffering. In 2000, even after four years of NC rule-which won with two-thirds majority in the 1996 assembly election, the situation in the State continued to be same; rather worse than before.

The advent of “Ikhwan” and “Task Force” had further frightened the besieged people, while as government of NC remained helpless and callous to the tribulations of the people across J&K. In this scenario, people were disillusionment with the NC and its mis-governance and desperate for an alternative political option.

In these times of uncertainty, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s emerged with a promise of hope and salvage. No political entity could challenge the hegemony of Kashmir’s grand old party, the NC, but PDP under Mufti saheb’s command dared to do so and successfully. When he became the Chief Minister, reconciliation, governance and peace remained the government’s main focus.

He conducted the government and politics in J&K in a way which resulted in India and Pakistan coming closer to each other. In the little time, since its formation on 28th July 1999, PDP led by Mufti Sayeed and his team won the trust of people and emerged as a strong and decisive political force.

In the past, all such efforts by political parties to emerge as an alternative regional political voice in Kashmir had failed. Whether it was the Peoples Conference led by the State’s brave and prudent politician Abdul Gani Lone, the Awami National Conference led by Ghulam Mohammad Shah, or the Panthers Party of Professor Bhim Singh in Jammu-they couldn’t succeed.

Mufti Saheb managed affairs so well that even his stringent critics agree that his tenure as chief minister was historic in many ways. The state saw unprecedented development and governance was redefined. On the political front, innumerable initiatives were undertaken that changed the overall ground situation. People felt the presence of a popular government which NC had failed to do.

The party tried to fulfil the representational gap and bring accountability and political audit within the state. Its agenda was to respond to the complex problems faced by the state by connecting communities, regions and religions.

However, the momentous take-away from Sayeed’s tenure was that Kashmiris began to identify with the system. Credibility and faith in the mainstream had been renewed. Consequently Kashmir saw a huge turnover in 2008 assembly polls despite tumultuous summer that year.

In the successive years, the PDP remained a responsible opposition but the government’s mishandling of every crisis proved detrimental to the significant gains made during the PDP-led government.

UPA government’s utter disregard for the state’s complex and sensitive situation led to a political drought fostering discontent and anger among people, particularly the youth in Kashmir. The government failed to build on the gains made during the Vajpayee era.  And the brunt of the accumulative anger and resentment had to be borne by PDP in the summer 2016.

Additionally, with lack of any meaningful engagement, people felt let-down. Even today the crux of the articulation of zulum, or oppression, by the masses has its root in the previous dispensation’s mishandling. The so-called new age militancy and renewed street violence in the Valley is a direct result of the mishandling and misadventures made after PDP was out of the government. The PDP-BJP alliance was presented as the focal point of the unrest merely because of lack of understanding of ground nuances. Had that been the case, the same south Kashmir would not have come out in droves to elect Mehbooba Mufti after the death of Sayeed.

The 2014 assembly polls had thrown up a fractured mandate as the BJP won a majority of seats in Jammu and the PDP doing considerably well in the Valley. Ignoring the mandate of the people of Jammu would have been an unwise decision. Formation of a Government with the BJP, instead of looking for other available options was a well thought-out decision, as leadership and political prudence demand respecting the diversity of the state and the choices of its people. Mufti saheb took this unpopular decision keeping in mind the collective good of the State and its people of all regions and religions.

The death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in Januray 2016 was a great loss not only to the party but to every peace loving person who believes in dialogue and debate. In his second innings, he wanted to pick up the threads from where he had left them in 2005 and take them to their logical conclusion. But fate didn’t let him do that.

It is tragic that the present NDA government led by Narendra Modi either did not understand him or deliberately ignored him. Whatever the reasons, it is unfortunate that he didn’t get the required support to work for his unfinished agenda after aligning with the BJP.

Building on the good work of her father and reinventing the PDP’s core ideology and commitment towards people of the state, Mehbooba Mufti is trying hard to carry forward the halted agenda of progress and reconciliation.

But the situation that unfolded in July 2016 kept the state apparatus busy in crisis management than development and peace-building. Today the focus is on building infrastructure, reviving economy and engaging youth, particularly by enhancing their skills. This was underscored by Mehbooba ji in her speech on the party’s 18th formation day.

The growing anger among people is worrisome and the party is facing challenges on multiple fronts. But it has been trying to reinvent itself and reach-out to everyone to reclaim its space.

Great changes need the coming together of people from all walks of life, so that together, we can work towards creating a better and safer world for the coming generations. It will not be easy, but it is not impossible either. PDP is for peace, reconciliation, healing the wounds, and equitable development of all regions of the state. Mehbooba Mufti has embarking on this challenging journey. She deserves time to prove herself!

The Article First Appeared In Times Of India

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