The last week witnessed stirrings of fresh political activity in Kashmir with a group of leaders headed by Altaf Bukhari calling on the Governor Girish Chander Murmu and later also meeting the visiting foreign envoys which included the US ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster. In talks with LG, Bukhari sought restoration of statehood, exclusive rights for locals over land and government jobs and economic packages for different sectors among other demands. Similarly, top PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh held a press conference in Jammu and took on his party leader Mehbooba Mufti for “provoking” New Delhi to downgrade J&K’s status. From both these activities, it is apparent that the statehood and the domicile status are emerging as the main demands for a small group of politicians willing to do business with New Delhi following the revocation of Article 370 on August 5.
However, they are certain to face resistance from the main regional political forces like National Conference and the PDP who are still holding their ground on the issue of J&K’s autonomy. It is still unclear what form the politics of the two parties takes once their leaders are released. Once released, these politicians could decide to unite and launch a mass movement for the reversal of the revocation of Article 370. Considering the mood in the Valley, such a movement is likely to witness an overwhelming public participation. And should this happen, the long running separatist movement in the state-turned-union territory will meld with the struggle for restoration of special rights under India’s constitution. And this can pose New Delhi its biggest challenge in Kashmir.
This is why seized of the potential implications of the release of the mainstream politicians, New Delhi seems unwilling to take any such step anytime soon. Other than three former chief ministers –Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – centre’s sweep in Kashmir encompasses many major politicians and civil society actors. A former MLA Engineer Rashid has been slapped with Public Safety Act. In all this, Dr Abdullah’s arrest is seen as an act of overreach. He is not only the tallest mainstream leader in J&K but also one of the senior most leaders in the country. He has always stood for the country’s cause in Kashmir and for which he has always been abhorred by separatist groups.
Meanwhile, first signs of some political activity are in evidence with Bukhari and Beigh indicating their willingness to reconcile to J&K’s post-August 5 status. But it will formally restart only when the top leaders like Dr Abdullah, Omar and Mehbooba are released and allowed to hold political meetings and talk to people.