By K.N. Pandita
In the third week of April I was in the valley on vacation. Three events were notable. First, it rained intermittently for forty-eight hours, which alarmed the people and put the government on tenterhooks.
Memory of devastating floods of September last still haunts the people.
Coalition government made tall claims that it was geared to any challenge thrown up by the rising waters of the river and its tributaries. From the viewpoint of Central Disaster Management Authority, the State Disaster Management Authority needed funds, paraphernalia, direction and targets if it had to become really functional. All these pre-requisites could not come up within a short span of six or seven months. Its performance during the September floods was deplorable.
However, the state government was happy to find that the rains had stopped after forty-eight hours, water was receding and the valley was moving away from the horrific reminiscences of September floods.
The second event was that of all separatist leaders, including top brass of both factions of Hurriyat and the Chairman of JKLF, Yasin Malik shared the same platform at Narbal condolence rally and Malik acted the compeer.
These leaders came together at Narbal, a small distance from Srinagar on Srinagar-Baramulla Highway, where a teenage student got killed by gunshot of the police/security forces. This was not a chance meeting.
Observers in the valley say that both factions of the Hurriyat are doing event-related politics in Kashmir. It means that they are waiting for some untoward event to happen anywhere in the valley so that they would react by finding a cause to do India bashing and thus maintain anti-India fervor among the people.
During the intervals between one and the other event, they have the weekly programme of addressing the Friday congregations and continuing their anti-India tirades, which the audience must listen to without demure.
The third event was the re-arrest of Masarat Alam under Public Safety Act. He is shifted to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu.
Masarat Alam, against whom there were many cases, was an unknown figure till 2010. He shot into prominence when he was identified by the police as one who lead the stone-throwing mobs in Srinagar. In that agitation more than a hundred Kashmiri youth are reported to have lost their precious lives. Masarat was facing more cases related to disruption of law and order. The law enforcing authorities involved him in one case after another if he was released by the court of law. Finally, Governor Vohra had signed his release order but it was the Chief Minister, Mufti Sayeed who, on the eighth day in office, announced his release. He hoped to take the credit.
Masarat’s release received strong media hype. Prime Minister said in the Parliament that he was not informed of the development. Mahbuba Mufti, PDP MP said law and order was state subject and the CM did not need to inform the centre. More vocal elements in BJP made wild speculation and pronounced that coalition was under pressure and could cave in. Print and electronic media went into frenzy and Masarat received publicity which he would never think of.
At that time, the Chief Minister made a casual remark that if Masarat did anything to disrupt order, law of the land would take its natural course. On the occasion of giving reception to Ali Shah Geelani, who returned to Kashmir after spending winter in New Delhi, Masarat fluttered Pakistani flag while leading the crowd gathered at Hyderpora and spate venom against India. He was instigating the crowds.
Law and order authorities filed a case against him in Budgam and the magistrate proceeded with the hearing. Bail was denied to Masarat. In the process, he was arrested under PSA and is now in Kot Balwal jail.
What is the significance of both Hurriyat factions and other separatist leaders like Yasin Malik coming together on the same platform? What is the significance of re-arrest of Masarat Alam? And going back a little, what was the background of protest by separatists and their sympathizers against the proposal of composite rehabilitation of internally displaced Pandits in Kashmir?
These are all inter-related events and should not be analyzed in isolation. For quite some time, Pakistani intelligence agencies handling Kashmir uprising from remote control, have intensified activities to destabilize the coalition government in the State.
In the first place, ISI was cross with local separatist leadership for not effectively imposing boycott of elections on the electorate in Kashmir. ISI conducted research into the phenomenon and came to understand that people in Kashmir were getting fed up with separatist leadership and, therefore, were moving away from them. Kashmiri youth were responding to various proposals for opening avenues of employment for them. Not more than two thousand people had gathered at the reception of Ali Shah in Hyderpora whom Masarat addressed.
ISI and its conduits including Jamaat-i-Islami in Kashmir worked in close liaison to see to it that BJP did not win a seat in the valley.
It heaved a sigh of relief when the results were declared. PDP’s victory and NC’s poor performance instilled some hope in the Pakistani intelligence agency but it soon evaporated in thin air.
The ISI did not like a coalition between PDP and BJP to become a reality. Forces were working behind the scene to force deadlock in negotiations that took forty-seven days to fructify. Pakistan wanted alienation of Jammu region and consolidation of election results in Kashmir,
Forging of coalition between PDP and BJP was a master stroke and a bold step of maintaining solidarity and integrity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Some observers called it a marriage of opposites.
Politics is a game of opposites. But it is also a game of possibilities. One must say that both sides have shown enormous political maturity and sense of responsibility as they inched towards forging a coalition which no doubt is unique in true sense of the term.
It will be seen that the separatists of all hues have now come together and have made a common platform against the coalition government. Yasin Malik did not mince words and said that the coalition was anti-Kashmir.
They have another argument to strengthen their tirade against the coalition and that is the arrest of Masarat under PSA. The Hurriyatis, too, have been accusing Mufti Sayeed of diluting party’s election agenda. This is all happening on the behest of external mentors of separatist brigade. To them, Mufti Sayeed is no more the soft face of Kashmir dissidents as had been projected so far.
Hardliners among BJP are also occasionally critical of party’s performance as coalition partners. But at least, there is a sense among the stakeholders that wrecking the coalition will be disastrous for the people and for political parties.
More sober observers have been asking why the BJP and the Central leadership raked up the controversial issue of return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit internally displaced persons at this point of time when the coalition government was settling down and addressing two crucial and critical issues of (a) relief for the flood victims, and (b) overcoming the existing financial crunch in the State.
They believe that the issue has been raised at inopportune time that has caused harassment to the newly formed government in the State. The rehabilitation issue of the IDPs, no doubt a pressing issue, could be deferred to another six months or one year when the government would be in a better frame of mind to address its delicacies.
It is also said that the issue of return of Kashmir IDPs was initially raised by New Delhi. Many an eyebrow were raised when the Home Minister made the unexpected announcement that an understanding had been reached with PDP in the course of drawing Common Minimum Programme on the issue of compact rehabilitation of the Pandits. Was the Home Minister responding to the critics within his party? Was the Pandit rehabilitation issue meant for home consumption? Was it made to wait and watch the reaction in Srinagar? Many surmises are made. Whatever the case, perhaps the time was not opportune for opening the issue. The State government needed more time to get stabilized and to frame balanced view after due consultations with all stakeholders.
All that we can say after reassessing the recent developments is that Pakistan will try everything possible within its means to forestall the return and rehabilitation of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
The coalition government has many urgent priorities to address. PDP is taking each step with utmost caution and maturity. The good thing is that its partner in power understands the complexity of situation and behaves with deep sense of responsibility. Therefore, it is prudent to draw the priority list item by item and address it with all seriousness.