Mirwaiz's Release

GOVERNMENT Tuesday released top Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after eighteen months. According to reports, he will address the congregation at Srinagar's grand mosque today. It will be interesting to see what he has to say in his sermon. As for Article 370, separatists' fought for its continuation as they saw in it a protection to the existing demographic character of J&K. They also didn't want to be seen too much for safeguarding Article 370 as it diluted their demand for secession of Kashmir from India. Now that the Article has been withdrawn, it remains to be seen how separatists who were so far under detention would react.

New Delhi has already released most of the mainstream leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti - three former J&K Chief Ministers. This shows the growing confidence of the union government in the improvement of the situation in the erstwhile state. It now sees less likelihood of the situation tipping into turmoil. No doubt, the J&K administration has put under fresh detention some mainstream leaders, most of them from the PDP, but that is not necessarily connected to the alleged safeguarding of the public order.

So far most of the mainstream leaders who have been released have exercised caution so far as pressing for the restoration of J&K autonomy. This despite the fact that the major political outfits have gotten together to fight for Article 370. The alliance that calls itself People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration recently suffered a jolt with the exit of Sajad Gani Lone, the chief of the People's Conference. Even the National Conference and the PAGD, the two major constituents of the five party grouping are finding it hard to get along. The alliance hasn't even met since the results of the recent DDC polls were declared. Nor does such a meeting look likely in near future.

Be that as it may, the release of Mirwaiz is a welcome development. This will go a long way to push Kashmir on the road to "economic and political normalcy", to borrow the Wednesday's statement of the US state department on Kashmir. What also makes Mirwaiz' release significant is that it comes in the wake of the recent LoC ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan. So, this is a pointer to the anticipated normalisation of relations between the neighbours. Here's hoping that more leaders are released and this is built upon by a dialogue between the two countries. Only the talks and a sustained engagement promises the long term peace in the region and in Kashmir.

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