The PDP President and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti has said that until the special status of J&K is restored, she will not raise the Tricolour. In her first press conference in Srinagar after her release from 14 months in detention following the abrogation of Article 370, Mehbooba equated the status of the separate J&K flag with the Tricolour, saying both need to be hoisted together atop the Secretariat Building in Srinagar. There cannot be one without the other. In other words, in her reckoning, acceptance of J&K’s accession to India was conditional on recognising its special status and restoring Article 370 and Article 35A. This is regardless of the constitutional provision which says that Article 370 was temporary and in time it would be abrogated.
It is this separatist streak in the mindset of the so-called mainstream parties which has perpetuated what is called the Kashmir problem. Had leaders like Mehbooba and Farooq Abdullah unambiguously and categorically sworn by the accession of J&K with the Union of India, forces inimical to peace and security in the Valley and outside in Pakistan would not have received direct and indirect encouragement. Secessionist elements draw sustenance from the ambivalence of leaders like Mehbooba and the Abdullahs, who tend to speak one language while in power and another when out of it.
Her call at last Friday’s presser, to boycott the electoral process in toto until the restoration of status quo ante as on August 5, 2019, does not help her cause, however misdirected it might be. The right thing would be for the PDP and the National Conference of the Abdullahs to assert their popular representativeness through the ballot box. The suspicion that the average Kashmiri voter had long ago lost faith in them, and that they relied on a contrived election process while the Centre chose to look the other way will get strengthened were she to boycott elections whether at the panchayat-level or higher.
It is notable that Farooq Abdullah felt so angry with the Centre for the abrogation of Article 370 that he virtually extended an invitation to China to invade India. Whether he and Mehbooba and other so-called mainstream leaders feel obliged to mouth such anti-national sentiments for fear of the secessionists’ guns or are genuinely anti-India cannot be said with a degree of certainty. But it is true that whether it is Mehbooba or the Abdullah father-and-son duo ensconced in the chief ministerial 'gaddi', they have not only refrained from being so brazen but in fact, have often reiterated unflinching faith in the Indian Union.
The late Sheikh Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference, was equally duplicitous in regard to J&K’s accession to India, which led to his long incarceration at the hands of Nehru in 1953. The point is that the PDP and NC leaders taking such unreasonable stands against the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir only justify the tough measures taken by the Centre. Even those sympathetic to their protest against the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 would find it hard to support them when they denigrate the Indian national flag.
How unpopular is the demand for the restoration of Kashmir’s special status in the country at large can be gauged from the fact that the Congress leadership was so embarrassed by P Chidambaram’s commitment to restore Article 370 if the party came back to power that it was at pains to distance itself from it. By choosing to boycott the Tricolour, Mufti and others of her ilk in Kashmir do not aid the process of normalisation in the Valley --- and provide a handle to the Centre to persist with its strong-arm tactics. The first requisite for the Kashmir-centric leaders to seek redressal of its grievances against the Centre is to express full faith in the unity and integrity of the Indian state of which Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part.