The Centre’s ‘no appeasement’ line puts CM Mehbooba Mufti in a bind
The Centre’s ‘no appeasement’ policy leaves Mehbooba Mufti searching for options
It was her first real outing since the Valley erupted in another cycle of violence on April 9, the day of the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypolls. And though she didn’t spell it out, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s statements, as she emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on April 24, clearly reflected her frustration.
Mehbooba emphasised the need for the promised “dialogue with all stakeholders”, the mainstay of the PDP-BJP alliance agenda. Also invoking former PM A.B. Vajpayee’s ‘insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat’ approach to J&K, she stressed on “picking up the thread where he (Vajpayee) left it”.
But the Modi government has evidently refused to play ball, forcing the CM to concede that “we have to first create a conducive atmosphere for dialogue, it cannot happen amid
THE CM STRESSED ON RESUMING AFTER VAJPAYEE’S ‘INSANIYAT, JAMHOORIYAT, KASHMIRIYAT’ LINE
stone-pelting and bullets. Even Modiji stressed the need to improve the situation before initiating talks”.
Mehbooba is evidently on the back foot. However unconvincing, given the low turnout, National Conference (NC) grandee Farooq Abdullah’s victory in Srinagar (a seat hitherto held by the PDP) is an indication that the party is in trouble. Many in the Valley also view her brother Tassaduq Mufti’s appeal to the Election Commission to defer the Anantnag Lok Sabha by-election as an acknowledgment of its waning popularity.
Meanwhile, the Centre has remained ominously silent on the need for renewed political initiatives. “The BJP government in Delhi is in no mood to shift from its ‘no appeasement’ stand and look at Kashmir as anything but a law and order problem,” says a senior security official who served for several years in the Valley. This was borne out by the high-level meeting chaired by Union home minister Rajnath Singh on April 24. Attended by national security advisor Ajit Doval, Intelligence Bureau chief Rajiv Jain and special secretary, internal security, Rina Mitra, the meeting deliberated on strategies to contain the spiralling violence.
Back in Kashmir, there’s been an upsurge in violence with militants gunning down Abdul Gani Dar, the PDP’s Pulwama district president. The second political assassination in the past week (NC’s Imtiyaz Ahmad Khan was shot in Shopian on April 17), Dar’s killing, state police officials admit, is worryingly reminiscent of the early 1990s when militancy was at its peak.
There was trouble in Srinagar too where hundreds of school and college students clashed with police and paramilitary personnel at Lal Chowk. Mehbooba Mufti had told reporters after meeting PM Modi that the coming summer would be “crucial” for the Valley. New Delhi’s emphasis on deploying only military and police solutions, in the absence of any political initiative, could prove problematic.
STONEWALLED CM Mehbooba Mufti at the meeting with PM Modi in Delhi, April 24