When she rose to speak in Assembly, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was expected to reply to the opposition forced discussion on the last year’s unrest which claimed around 100 lives and left several hundred blinded. That is what she did but she had up on her sleeve something more: a rehabilitation plan for the victims of the violence, something that even Hurriyat which egged on the protests has turned a blind eye to. Mehbooba announced an ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh in favour of the next of kin of those killed during the unrest. She said the possibilities of providing jobs would also be explored in cases of extreme compassion. The CM also announced Government jobs for the persons “who lost their eyesight during the unrest”.
The government, she said, would make the arrangements for education at Delhi and other places for the students “whose eyesight got affected during the turmoil,” adding she had already spoken to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about this.
Significantly, in response to the calls of the opposition for an enquiry into the killings, the CM announced the setting up of a Special Investigating Team to probe the killing of a lecturer at Khrew, an ATM guard at Karan Nagar and other such killings. She also announced the establishment of an SIT in each district to investigate the killings and injuries there and to ascertain if excessive force was used to deal with the situations. The SITs would be asked to submit their reports in a time-bound manner.
There was more. The CM said the Government will review the cases of the detained persons and assured that “those found least involved will be released”. She also promised the review of the cases of the youth held in previous unrests.
Outlining her new outreach to the local militants, Mehbooba said she has categorically directed the security agencies during the last Unified Command meeting to ensure the return of the local youth involved in militancy to the mainstream life.
Moving on to more contentious terrain, Mehbooba made yet another attempt to rationalize the killings by arguing that it was difficult for the security personnel to practise restraint “when a mob attacked police stations and the security camps with petrol bombs, stones and axes”.
But for its rehabilitation component, the CM’s speech counted for little. It was wearingly predictable and a rehash of the tired statements, she makes in her media interactions and which hardly ever translate into policy actions. But the announcement of the monetary compensations and the employment for the victims of the violence is where she may have stolen a march both over the Hurriyat and the Opposition. For this is something that even Omar Abdullah as Chief Minster didn’t do following the killings of 120 youth in 2010 uprising. Hurriyat too has never done it in an organized way, albeit there have been recently some calls from the sections of society that the conglomerate should take a lead in rehabilitating the victims of the uprising.
But Mehbooba has done it. Shorn of the political credibility as a result of the recent excesses of her government, the rehabilitation package will allow her to build a utilitarian bridge to the sections of the alienated population in Kashmir which in the fullness of time might even help her sneak back into public favour.