Back to Politics?

AS the anniversary of the withdrawal of Article 370 draws nearer, several mainstream politicians including Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, two former J&K Chief Ministers have ended their prolonged silence and started speaking to media. Senior Abdullah has sought restoration of Article 370 that granted J&K its autonomous status within Indian Union. However his son Omar’s interview ran into controversy after he was perceived to have stressed the restoration of the statehood for J&K to the neglect of the demand for reversal of the revocation of Article 370. Though Omar has since clarified that he didn’t privilege restoration of statehood over that of the Article 370, there have been few takers for it. Similarly, there have been interviews by the veteran PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and Iltija Mufti, the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter. The interviews of the later two have been more hardline, mincing no words about their opposition to annulment of  J&K’s special status.

That said, these interviews still don’t constitute the restoration of the political activity in the region. The government has yet to free the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who is now under detention at her official residence. Similarly, leaders like Sajad Gani Lone, Shah Faesal are also detained at their respective residences and the former MLA Engineer Rashid has been shifted to Tihar jail.

This has brought the political activity in Kashmir to a halt. Except for their recent interviews, the leaders like Abdullah and Omar have largely been silent following their release. And the consequent political vacuum has to some extent filled up by the subdued activity of the newly established party like Apni Party, led by a businessman turned politician Altaf Bukhari. However, unlike the established parties, the NC and the PDP, Bukhari’s party is largely in line with the centre’s policy on the former state.

It remains to be seen how will the Valley based political parties react once all their leaders are released and allowed to hold political activity. The NC leader and the Member Parliament Hasnain Masoodi is already on record to have said that Gupkar declaration will be a basis for their future politics, so has now Omar Abdullah.

But as things stand, the J&K administration is unlikely to countenance any dissenting political views at this juncture. Hence the continued detention of the leaders like Mehbooba  whose daughter Iltija Mufti has been fiercely vocal about the Article 370. Similarly, the senior PDP leader and Mehbooba’s close confidante Naeem Akhtar who has begun to talk to press was recently evicted from his official residence.

This doesn’t give hope that the political activity in Kashmir will restore to normal anytime soon. That is, unless the J&K administration is certain that it will not challenge its Kashmir narrative. It is also likely that the things will change for the better in the near future as it would become increasingly untenable for the government to further prolong the detention of the political and civil society leaders.

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