Return of Politics?

THE recent past has witnessed politics return to the Valley in a modest way. After the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s tour of Jammu where she attended several rallies and led protests, the National Conference working president Omar Abdullah also addressed a rally in Chenab Valley. Omar was very combative in his speech. In his speech, Omar slammed the centre for “revival of militancy” in Kashmir. He said the new militancy in the Valley was the result of the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 which, according to him, had angered the youth forcing them to take up arms. Significantly, the former chief minister said the militancy was now made up of local youth, ruling out Pakistan’s role in fomenting it as the union government believed. Omar, who is also the vice president of National Conference said the centre had lied that the militancy will end post Article 370 purge.

Mehbooba, on the other hand, is now routinely on the road. She has been sharply critical of the union government’s approach. However, her primary political campaign is against the withdrawal of Article 370, a far-reached decision she wants reversed “with interest”. In a recent address at Banihal, Mehbooba called on the centre to restore J&K autonomy if it wanted “to keep Kashmir.” She said people wanted return of “our identity and honour.”

The Hyderpora encounter also brought local politics to the fore. Mehbooba led a protest in Jammu, Omar Abdullah held a protest outside his residence and Sajad Lone wrote a letter to the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Prime minister Narendra Modi. And it did work. The government was forced to return the bodies of the two civilians killed in the encounter to their families.

The political activity can thus be expected to gather momentum in near to medium term. More so, if the government decides to be more accommodative of the dissent. It will also depend on whether the centre chooses to hold the election in the union territory or delays it further till some ‘conducive’ time. There is, however, hope in the way the local politics is tentatively hurtling to the foreground again. This is needed to fill in the political vacuum that has developed in the region over the last one and a half year.

Government’s main concern seems to be the form the response of these leaders to the withdrawal of Article 370 will take. The leaders have opposed the repeal of the state’s special status and vowed to fight for its restoration. In the run up to the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, all mainstream parties had closed ranks against such an occurrence but to no avail. But much water has flown down the Jhelum since. The story has become much complex now. There are parties now which are seeking to play down the loss of autonomy. But it is good that politics is picking up again. It would go a long way to fill in the deep political vacuum in the Valley.

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