It was an extraordinary alliance which took everyone by surprise when three years ago the BJP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party joined hands to break the impasse of a hung Assembly and formed the Government under the late Mufti Mohammed Syed. The diametrically opposite poles in J and K politics had joined hands, as they claimed, in the larger interests of the troubled State. The move elicited a muted welcome all around in the hope that the coming together of two extremes might lead to a better appreciation of each other’s views and to that extent help break the decades-long deadlock. Unfortunately, it was easier said than done.
The usual suspects who have held peace and normalcy in Kashmir hostage further stepped up their violent act. Since the two partners addressed two more or less mutually hostile constituencies, the new government was wracked by sharp differences, when the CM ordered the release of dreaded terror-masters from prison. The PDP felt obliged to keep the separatists or their sympathisers in good humour while the BJP fiercely defended the nationalist cause. Within ten months of the coalition of opposites, Sayeed died. His daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, became chief minister, but there was no change in the ground situation in Kashmir. In the unending cycle of violence, the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani triggered a fresh spurt of violence and protests.
Incidents of stone-throwing and arson increased manifold, resulting in the death of nearly a hundred people over the next few months. While the BJP component pressed for stricter action against the separatists and others creating mayhem, the chief minister and her ministerial colleagues publicly called for a softer approach, seeking a dialogue with all stakeholders in the Kashmir dispute, diplomatese for drawing Pakistan into the conversation. The Centre was against this and believed all the while that with a friendly elected government in place in Srinagar, the armed forces could take the full measure of the jihadis and their supporters. Unfortunately, the character of the militancy had changed over the years with the local youths drawn to violence with the active encouragement of ISI and its agents in the Valley. Meanwhile, the other two regions of the State, namely, Jammu and Ladakh were feeling neglected and deprived of any fresh development. Since the PDP was essentially a Kashmir-centric party, it was natural for fissures to develop between the Jammu-centric BJP.
In other words, the Muslims of the Valley and the Hindus of Jammu had different interests and both were beginning to feel alienated from this extraordinary coalition in Srinagar. Finally, when the PDP pursuing its own narrow agenda began to file FIRs against army personnel for acts undertaken in self-defence, the cracks in the coalition became all too apparent. Even the initial propaganda advantage of the PDP joining hands with the BJP was frittered away when the spiral of jihadi violence continued unabated. The last straw in the relationship between the alliance partners came earlier this year following the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-girl in Jammu with two BJP ministers rubbishing the charge and supporting the suspects. A national hue and cry led to their sacking from the Mehbooba ministry.
What next for Kashmir? We think it is in for a prolonged spell of central rule, though how it will help remains to be seen since the army has always had a free hand over the years. Yet, given that the State police and bureaucracy has been vastly infiltrated by the anti-India agents, there will be some curb on their nefarious activities. Let us be honest. A tough line was tried and failed in Kashmir. Ever since Rajiv Gandhi arbitrarily quashed the outcome of a free and fair election which threw up a new minority front as winner, Kashmir has not experienced normalcy. The Abdullahs have all along been opportunists, feathering their own nests without aiding the peace process. There was some hope that the Muftis will succeed where the Abdullahs had failed, but that too was dashed. However tough a law and order line the Centre might take, there is no escaping a conversation with Pakistan which is the chief trouble-maker in Kashmir. We have to engage Pakistan. Period. The country has paid huge costs in men and money in controlling Kashmir ever since Nehru’s unwise policy led to its unnatural bifurcation and the subsequent grant of a special status which was written into the statute. Even if the BJP beats the nationalism drum harder with an eye on the 2019 general election and the State polls before it, it will not help find a solution to the Kashmir problem. The search for the resolution of Kashmir dispute has to have the Rawalpindi GHQ and New Delhi on the same page. Of that we see no prospect, especially in the current state of politics in Pakistan.