Perfecting Role-play

As National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party slug it out on who was drawing political mileage out of the hanging of Afzal Guru, both the parties have tacitly played their part to ensure that the resolution seeking the mortal remains of Guru was disqualified by the state legislature, Shah Abbas reports.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is fortunate to be in the state legislature without the main opposition party for the ongoing budget session. He has only to tackle the ‘rouge’ Engineer Rasheed, the independent lawmaker against whom the assembly marshalls always remain ready whenever he stands up to speak.

The major separatist leaders have been jailed or house arrested and the ordinary people have stopped paying any heed to the protest calls of Mutahida Majlis-e-Mashawarat (MMM) barring shutdowns. Courtesy; a tremendous pressure of police on youth and the protesters.

The boycott of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the caging of separatists has led to a situation where Kashmiris feel underrepresented everywhere. “Kashmiris are voiceless. The government is not listening. There is no one in the legislature to oppose the government and the separatists have been practically made outlaws,” a political commentator said.

The PDP announced to boycott the remaining sittings of the state Legislative Assembly over the government of India’s refusal to return mortal remains of Mohammad Afzal Guru to his family and apparently in protest against the state government for not moving a resolution in favor of the demand. Though Rasheed had already moved one, it was later dismissed.

“Sense of the house was conveyed to the government of India but the home minister was most arrogant and he insulted the house. So there is no reason to attend this session from now onwards,” Mehooba Mufti, president PDP said, while announcing the decision, adding, “People of Kashmir have been pushed to the wall, National Conference has brought people on knees.”

Though the union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has already ruled out any chance to return the mortal remains of Afzal Guru, Kashmiris are still demanding it. The demand is being pressed on two fronts. In the state legislature, independent lawmaker Er Rasheed moved a resolution seeking the support of PDP and NC. The resolution was dismissed by the speaker on March 18, while as PDP announced its boycott, accusing the state government that it was not serious in asking for the mortal remains of Afzal. The decision came at a time when a discussion on PDP’s adjournment motion was concluded.

Er Rasheed accused PDP of trying to ‘sabotage’ his resolution at the very beginning by moving an adjournment motion. He even went on to say that PDP boycotted the proceedings at the behest of New Delhi.

“The people of Jammu and Kashmir want PDP in the assembly to fight and to expose Government of India and state government but unfortunately they were directed by New Delhi to boycott the session so that they need not to reveal the bitter truth and can eat the cake and have it too,” claimed Rasheed on March 19, a day after the speaker had rejected his resolution. The MLA from Langate pointed towards the empty PDP benches and said, “People of the state wanted the renowned lawyer Muzaffar Hussain Beigh to be in the assembly and facilitate the process by putting forward his legal arguments to get the resolution through.”

The PDP’s decision left the ruling National conference (NC) to enjoy without any strong opposition in the state legislature and since then the ruling party is enjoying like anything along with Congress whose government at centre hanged Afzal Guru in Delhi on February 9. PDP had emerged as the largest opposition in 2008 elections. Baring the deputy speaker who belongs to the party, the 87 member state assembly has 20 members of PDP.

In a parliamentary system of democracy, the opposition parties have greater role to play. The largest opposition party enjoys the status of the leader of the opposition in the House. He or she is responsible to raise the issues with the government, when he or she finds the government is not functional as per the will of the people. But PDP’s boycott decision has left “will of the people unrepresented”.

In democracies, the political parties are free to play politics outside but when they sit together in legislative houses, they are bound not to concentrate on politics only. Somehow these rules don’t apply in Jammu and Kashmir where the political fights are fought on the floor of the house. In this regard the war of allegations and counter-allegations is on. NC believes that PDP is playing “politics of deceit” and is politicizing every issue to draw political mileage.

It does not surprise Prof. Gull Mohammad Wani, who teaches Political Science at University of Kashmir. “The regional parties’ challenges become challenging when they share power with a party like Congress which uses both National Conference as well as PDP as disposable items, and unfortunately both are not understanding it.”

“Both the parties are desperately following the path which leads to power only. It has made them power centric. Both PDP and NC on their turn perform political dramas. Take the example of Amarnath land row. NC was playing politics and now PDP is doing the same thing on Afzal Guru issue,” Gull says.

In fact, the evaluation of NC and PDP must be done under the same microscope. “Only after that will the things come out clearer and louder. What is the position of NC and PDP when they share power with Congress?” asks Gull Wani.

The separatist organizations and their amalgams are pressing for the mortal remains of the Afzal Guru on another front by forming a joint amalgam called ‘MMM’ which issues protest calendars to press for the demand. Police has already started a massive crackdown to arrest the ‘MMM’ members, resulting in a fear psychosis to the extent that nobody from Hurriyat (M) appeared to take part in the last meeting of MMM. Sources said that when nobody turned up to represent Mirwaiz, the members telephoned him and he gave his nod to the protest calendar over phone.

Since the hanging of Afzal, police have arrested dozens of separatist leaders and activists mostly from Hurriyat (G). Even Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik have been put under house arrest and they are not being allowed to move out.

“The government is doing everything tactfully. It has almost declared us as outlaws and it is not listening to the voices rising in favor of the demand in the state legislature as well,” said a second rung Hurriyat leader, adding, “NC is enjoying power with the party who hanged Afzal in Delhi and it is trying to prove that it has nothing to do with Afzal’s hanging.”

However, PDP has not succeeded in getting the sympathy of separatists this time. Both the factions of Hurriyats are weighing PDP and NC on the same scale and they are not making distinction among the two.

Stating that the refusal to admit the resolution seeking return Guru’s body to his family in the state assembly has exposed the “hypocrisy” of the unionist political parties Mirwaiz Umar Farooq accused them of following Delhi’s diktats and following its agenda in the state assembly.

“The institution of state assembly has been destroyed and it has lost all political authority and credibility. It is not the constitution or the law that govern it, but is being used by New Delhi to stamp an authority on its agenda on Kashmir”, Mirwaiz said, adding, “Right since its establishment, decisions against Kashmiris’ interests have been taken and passed in the assembly. They only discuss and pass those bills and resolutions which are backed by New Delhi.”

“The government and the main opposition party, instead of building the people’s initiative, are now reduced to counting the number and source of condemnations of the tragedies they fail to prevent,” said a political commentator, adding, “The admission by the chief minister that he was unable to do anything even in matters involving innocent killings. So nothing can be expected of his government.”

PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Saeed is of the opinion that the state assembly is the ultimate authority in a democratic system and it should be free to discuss all issues which concern the people. He alleged that the present coalition had held it hostage to its petty partisan interests, just to ensure its survival.

“The assembly has been turned into a mocking house. The government, instead of getting worried by opposition boycott, feels relieved at what it considers as a good riddance. This attitude could have disastrous implications for the state,” Mufti said.

Referring to the decision of his party to stay away from the proceedings of legislature for the rest of the current session, Mufti said the House had been prevented from undertaking any meaningful discussion that could have helped in finding a way to respond to people’s concerns.

“We did not want to be part of a process of demolition of democratic institutions in the revival of which we had contributed substantially in the past years. The people would get completely disillusioned with the highest democratic forum by witnessing the most undesirable sight of a government pleading helplessness before its own forces and an opposition not allowed to raise issues and jointly finding solutions to them,” argues the former Congressman who was also India’s Home Minister at the peak of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.

In extreme cases, if the government is all powerful to crush the opposition, the later is potent enough to make a stir against the former and force them to exit by means of agitation. Only then they can save the democracy. Plato has rightly said, “The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of the government, is to live under the government of unwise men.”

The irony is that the ruling coalition does not seem to be in a mood to reconciliate with PDP to persuade it to change its decision of boycotting. “Why should we talk to PDP? None drove them away. They themselves fled from the House. They fled to escape the problems and issues of the people. They are not bothered about problems of people who sent them to the House to raise their issues. Woh Unkay Saath Daga Kartay Hai To Ismein Hum Kya Karein,” Mir Saifullah, the law and parliamentary affairs minister said when asked to react about the PDP boycott.

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