Pandemonium

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In the ruckus over killings and blinding by security grid, political parties have talked a lot in last fortnight. But it is unlikely to change even an iota how Delhi intends to manage the bleeding vale, reports Masood Hussain

Mehbooba-with-Rajnath

Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s Kashmir visit was part of the larger monologue that the governments in Delhi and Srinagar are engaged in. Facing a complete boycott from the routine trade and ‘civil society’ associations, the state being the most muscular body of J&K society, still spent a busy day in Nehru Guest House.

“I told the minister that Delhi has only half a million soldiers in the state and how it will feel if it dubs three million youth of Kashmir anti-peace and pushes them to a confrontation with the armed forces?” ruling PDP’s youth leader Waheed Parra, whose delegation spent almost an hour with Singh, said. “Visitor footfalls and the pilgrim traffic to Amarnath is no indicator of peace and peace will have to be seen through the prism of local population.”

Suggested Delhi to think beyond “money and military”, Parra said he told the minister that BJP led government has systematically undermined the ideas that Mufti Sayeed represented and paid the price for: involving Pakistan, reviving Vajpayee doctrine and talking to Kashmir on the other side of ideological fence. “Delhi must introspect why Vajpayee was greeted by thousands and why there were black flags for Manmohan in Srinagar?” Parra told Singh.

But the ruling BJP in Delhi had already made a choice about its Kashmir policy. “It heard a strong demand for an All Party Delegation in parliament but sat over it,” journalist and political commentator Iftikhar Gilani believes. “Then it flew the Home Minister to talk with the government it is already part of.”

Singh’s visit was follow up to army chief’s visit. Modi’s Kashmir policy in fact is no Vajpayee doctrine. It has only two pillars: a strong fist approach and initiating developments that would exclude the ideological opposition, thus keeping its ally relevant.

In utter disregard to what it acceded to in the agenda of alliance, the ruling coalition’s governance bible, right-wingers stick to the stated positions. Saner voices come from the left, as the recent parliament debate explained. Congress is behaving slightly different but is a meek player. Congress followed-up Vajpayee doctrine till Rahul Gandhi was projected to replace Manmohan Singh. That marked the end of it in 2008. With Rahul’s dream unfulfilled, Congressmen are rediscovering that doctrine but lack force to make Modi work.

Congress issued two statements on Kashmir situation from Delhi and Srinagar and both differed with each other! Even Ghulam Nabi Azad who dominated TV screens from Rajya Sabha had already said that people who offered funeral prayers to Burhan were no less than terrorists!

“The two parties are playing competitive nationalism and seemingly trying to use Kashmir for their UP elections,” Gilani said. “It is a dangerous game for Kashmir and ideally NC and PDP should have flown to Delhi together and forced the parties against dragging Kashmir into mainland electoral politics.”

CM-in-Kupwara

CM Mehbooba Mufti embracing the family member of one the summer 2016 casualty.

Kashmir is facing governance issues as well. When Omar Abdullah said that his successor did not learnt lessons from his mistakes, he was correct. He did not want her to get into the shell, insisting that first 48 hours are crucial in such situations. Ms Mufti rushed ministers to districts who could barely move to the hospitals.

Later, she took two major initiatives. The first was the all party meeting (APM) that NC termed “guilt induced hogwash” of an “arrogant” government. The party boycotted it almost on the same pattern as PDP did in 2010.

APM reported grief over loss of life, claimed a “political consensus” for addressing the “problems confronting J&K”, called for “inclusive engagement” of all stakeholders for “carrying forward the peace and reconciliation process”. NC quickly reacted that the “photo-op” lacked any efficacy as it could neither recommend lifting of curfew, nor resuming mobile telephony or stopping pellet usage.

APM over, Ms Mufti flew to Islamabad where she met various families who lost their kids in the police actions. A day later, she was in Kupwara meeting another affected family. In both the meetings, TV showed her bids at emotional bonding. This irked the top separatists Syed Ali Geelani dub her Rudhali, the professional mourner, a termed that he used first time.

But between her APM and her meetings with families – many people term it “too little, too late”, even PDP cadres see the party getting sucked into Delhi’s stated narrative – blaming everything on Pakistan. “She initiated her speech in APM with Pakistan bashing,” one insider said. Even in meeting with the families, she was clearly audible on this count: “It has always been seen that many internal and external forces gang up to destabilize Kashmir once there is some semblance of normalcy in the Valley.”

Statements that Chief Minister and Rajnath Singh made were almost identical: Lal Masjid, terrorism in Pakistan.

After spending two days in Srinagar, an apparently unremorseful Singh ruled out any “third party” intervention and kept his unknown initiatives hostage to the resumption of peace and normalcy. With 51 already dead, he put the number of cops and paramilitary men at 3128 and civilians at 2259, triggering murmurs in the media corps about the health facility where 3000 injured could be accommodated. The 15-Base Hospital in Srinagar has only 23 people admitted right now and not many in the police hospital!

Singh said Delhi wants building “emotional relationship” but offered no idea how it can happen. He asked people to avoid stone pelting and “appealed” police to avoid using pellets. He asked Pakistan to change its mind on Kashmir as it is herself affected by terrorism. Welcoming “constructive suggestions” Singh insisted that “dialogue has no other option” but offered no details. His choice of words (na-itifaqi and mudbead) – “disunity and differences” did not offer any idea about which section he was referring to. On almost all the key areas concerning Kashmir, Singh feigned ignorance and was in the virtual denial mode. Singh owned Vajpayee doctrine literally on press demand!

With six injured already being treated in AIIMS, Singh said Delhi can fly the injured for better medical care in Delhi.

CM-in-Islamabad

Efforts to get an idea about what transpired between Singh and the Ms Mufti’s cabinet also failed. Indications suggest that a few garrisons might be wound up and the lands already occupied by troops might get adequately compensated. On the state of human rights and the political process, nothing could be known immediately. In fact, despite PM Modi admitting using disproportional force in Kashmir, Singh refused to apologise to Kashmiris.

People expected Singh’s visit may lead to the “un-gating” of the separatist leaders enabling their movement and interactions with the people. But that did not happen. In fact, a good crowd was seen outside Syed Ali Geelani’s Hyderpora residence when media corps was on way to airport for Singh’s presser. Hurriyat, now managed by the trio – Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik, has already taken-over the crisis that was sort of a spontaneous affair after Burhan killing. Geelani has already linked restoration of normalcy to many things: admitting Kashmir a dispute, releasing political prisoners, removing AFSPA and PSA, permitting UN special reportuers to investigate the human rights situation and restoring political space to his camp.

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