Now when elections are underway in Kashmir, question of Kashmiri rights and special status are being raked up and the gap between mainstream and separatist politics is increasingly becoming indistinguishable.
Article 370 and 35-A are being held sacrosanct by the people of J&K. Challenge to Article 35A in SC has already evoked resentment in Kashmir. Not only does Hurriyat leadership steer the case but the Unionist politicians are leaving no stone unturned as well to ‘defend’ the article. Article 35A has already crossed over to New Delhi to help national level parties gain political brownies. Now our local politicians want to milk it as well.
Ever since BJP withdrew support to the Mehbooba Mufti led government, she is trying to build her waning image by taking stand on most controversial issues. Perhaps, she understands that her core constituency spawns across South Kashmir- the region that has been mostly a no-go zone for her legislators during her tenure. She didn’t care for improving the situation when she was CM nor did she made an effort to talk to the aggrieved section of society- the youth. Now when she finds herself in the midst of another election, she has no scorecard to show. She relies on speeches which might strike chord with the alienated populace. She consistently criticises BJP for anti-Kashmir policies. Ironically, the party she happily embraced to form government in 2015. In August, 2016, she said, If Kashmir issue is not resolved under Narendra Modi, it will never be resolved. And now she blames Modi for all the chaos in Kashmir. Prior to that, in April same year, she on record said that JK has full support of PM Modi and today she accuses BJP of sidelining the Agenda of Alliance.
This election may change the political landscape of Kashmir forever. Not Just Mehbooba Mufti, even Omar Abdullah has joined the bandwagon. He too has rediscovered his love for Article 370 and pre-1965 era and perhaps wants to be Vazir-e-Azam now instead of CM. Post Burhan uprising and the kind of policies unfolding at the centre; alienation in Kashmir is near total. The politicians want to cater to this alienation regardless of how it’s going to impact the post-election scenario. These politicians have not only raised the bar for separatist sentiment but they are actually selling the dream of Azadi. In this setup, I believe, Hurriyat has little to offer. The mainstreaming of separatism is a new big thing in Kashmir. Entry of Shah Faesal into the politics had added a new realm to the Kashmir politics. He has already touched ideas very dear to the common people in his speeches. The rise in popularity of AIP supremo Engineer Rasheed has unnerved mainstream political parties. Akbar Lone chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in his rallies, perhaps, is a ploy to counter Rasheed’s popularity in the North where he is pitted against him. Now it remains to be seen how far these leaders go in raking up the separatist sentiment.
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