by Shmas Irfan
SRINAGAR: After humiliating pullout by BJP, finally former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti came out of hibernation and addressed her party workers in Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Park, on the foundation day of PDP. The crowds were modest but not bad. Faces were sullen but not escapist. It indicated a revival if not return to power.
Semiotics of the space on the raised platform displayed the current compulsion. It was symbolism in silence that spoke much louder than the words can ever do. Nayeem Akhtar in back row left, so were Sartaj Madni and Peer Mansoor – the men whom rebels accused of calling the shots and reviewing the cabinet decisions, during recess. There were only two chairs for Mehbooba Mufti and Muzaffar Hussain Beig.
Abdul Rehman Veeri, Mehboob Beig, Khushid Alam, Altaf Bukhari, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, Basharat Bukhari and many others were prominently seated. Abdul Haq Khan , who was earlier dropped from the cabinet, was also present. There were many prominent absentees too: Imran Ansari, Abid Ansari, Abas Ahmad Wani, Javid Beigh, Majeed Padder and the two MLCs including Saifuddin Bhat. Padder, reports said had created his own show in bus stand Kulgam.
“There were many others who could not make it but there are no tensions,” one young activist said. “Jammu PDP is holding a separate function.” What about Drabu, the former Finance Minister, who was once part of both Mufti and Mehbooba’s inner circle before being sacked unceremoniously? “He is out of Kashmir and he has himself stated he is disinterested and not disgruntled.”
It was interesting that Mrs and Mr Muzaffar Hussain Beig were part of the Raising Day function but Javaid Beig skipped the function. They may be living separately but have they divided their politics too?
But what was interesting was Mehbooba Mufti has started picking up the threads. Not in her signature green Abhaya though, she sounded both confident and concerned. She even seemed emotional at one point of time.
For the two main speakers, Muzaffar Hussain Beig and Mehbooba Mufti, the main talking point was Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister: his latest talks offer to Delhi. Beig actually appealed Prime Minister Modi against permitting slaying of Muslims for carrying a cow or a buffalo. He said it can lead to another partition of India.
Mehbooba appealed Modi to respond to Pakistan’s new Prime Minster Imran Khan’s offer of talks. Invoking her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s legacy, Mehbooba said, “Allah is witness that my politics starts and ended at my father. That is why I was not ready to form the government after he died.”
Mehbooba told a gathering – modest by PDP’s standards – who had come from different parts of Kashmir but mostly from Amira Kadal, Ganderbal and Shehr-e-Khas, that she agreed to head BJP-PDP alliance after her father’s death only after New Delhi showed positive signs that they will honour Agenda of Alliance. “I was compelled to become the chief minister for sake of people of Kashmir,” she said. “Otherwise, I find myself not a worthy replacement of my father.”
Trying to clarify her position on BJP-PDP collation, Mehbooba said, “We had an idea that Modi was part of the same BJP that was led by Vajpayee once. We thought Modi too will take the same route of sympathy towards Kashmiris which was taken by Vajpayee.”
Mehbooba said, “Vajpayee helped in healing the wounds of Kashmir and we expected the same from Modi. We expected him to talk to Pakistan.”
Without mentioning any of them Mehbooba told her supporters that PDP is her party and it will remain so always. “I am thankful to the people who helped it (PDP) stay alive for all these years,” said Mehbooba. “It was not easy to survive for 19 years in such tough situation.”
Recalling her father’s first term as Chief Minister, Mehbooba said, Mufti had told then Prime Minster Vajpayee, that we cannot give land (to Pakistan), but we can help erase the borders so that people from both sides can travel and interact. “Mufti told Vajpayee Bijli, Pani and Sadak can be taken care of by Governor even. But what Kashmir needs is permanent solution to its ailments. This place is full of graveyards, widows, orphans, etc.
On the issue of getting into an alliance with BJP, Mehbooba said, “My father told me that we have to sacrifice ourselves for sake of Kashmiris. We have to jump into the fire to save the people of Kashmir.”
Mehbooba turned emotional while recalling her last two years in office as Chief Minister, which she termed as most difficult part of her life. “Only I and my Allah knew what I have gone through. Only after two months in office, when I had planned to visit my constituency to thank people, a very big tragedy happened after Eid.” She was referring to the unrest that started after the killing of Burhan Wani.
Without naming anyone Mehbooba blamed “people” for forcing small kids in front of large rallies marching towards army camps, police stations, and security forces. “Whenever someone used to die or get injured, it used to pain me a lot,” said Mehbooba. “My heart used to get pieced with every injury. I could feel their pain.”
Assuring her party men that PDP has made no compromises inlast two years, Mehbooba said, she would fight here with situation and then with people in Delhi for sake of Kashmiris.
“I never smiled in last two years. People often ask me why there is no even a single picture of mine with a smile on my face. How could I have smiled when every single day started with a killing or a tragedy in Kashmir?” Since July 8, 2016, we couldn’t sit for even a single day in peace and work for the betterment of the people, she added.
Earlier, S M Altaf Bukhari asserted that no government can be formed in Jammu and Kashmir without PDPs 28 MLAs. He said the party will not compromise on dialogue demand for settling the Kashmir issue.
“Presence of MLAs and top leaders here must close the chapter of alleged dissidence in the party and formation of a government without Mehbooba Mufti led PDP. We stand behind her,” he asserted.
“We are back to our plank,” one insider said. “Talks, reconciliation and dialogue are the real main basics that we talked about and will continue talking.” He said the function was more of a revival exercise in wake of threats of breakup. The BJPDP fell on June 19, after BJP pulled out of the alliance saying it had untenable to continue in the government in view of the growing radicalism and terrorism in the state. Soon after various lawmakers rebelled against the party creating a situation that the party may break.
The weekend show, however, indicated that the party has survived the phase one of the crisis. It has taken certain course corrections which included the party office bearers tendering their resignations.