By Fasil Hussain Rather & Ameen Hussain Rather
On 4April, 2016, Mehbooba Mufti, the patron of the People’s Democratic Party, became the first woman and the ninth Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir by reinforcing the alliance with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). However we have witnessed several changes in her behaviour and beliefs, after she has become the Chief Minister.
Mehbooba Mufti is known for being a pro-Kashmiri politician and for her opposition to the oppression of Kashmiri people by the Indian Government forces. While she was in the opposition, she always criticized the National Conference (NC) and their ally for subjugating the Kashmiri people. She was the first to speak against the hanging of Afzal Guru. “We don’t agree with the statement of the Chief Minister that the state government had no role in the hanging. His party is part of the UPA and the responsibility of such decisions is collective,” said the PDP spokesperson at the time.
Mehbooba always spoke against the killings of civilians and human rights abuses by the Government forces. On 13 June, 2010, the Greater Kashmir reported her concern about the killing of a teenager, “Expressing deep grief at the loss of another teenage life, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti has said the use of force, to create fear psychosis, has become the preferred tool of governance for the state government.”
However, despite all this, while speaking in the legislative assembly on the issue of separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits on May 28, 2016, Ms Mehbooba Mufti remarked that she can’t throw “pigeons in front of a cat.”
“First we have to put them [Kashmiri Pandits] in transit camps. We have to give them a breathing space. You are telling them to go directly to their villages. How is this possible?” she said, adding “when the situation is conducive they will go back to their villages in Ganderbal, Baramulla and Anantnag. At present they can’t be thrown like pigeons in front of a cat.”
Her remark produced a proverbial storm in the tea cup, as she was widely criticized for comparing Kashmiri Muslims to cats. However, she then immediately clarified her remark, “…I didn’t compare Muslims with cats. I didn’t say Muslims are a threat to migrant Kashmiri Pandits. Who killed Mirwaiz Sahab, Lone Sahab? They were not killed by their neighbours,” she said in an attempt to compare militants with cats.
In recent days, a new face of Mehbooba has emerged in the assembly. She has turned from a soft separatist to a hard core nationalist. This transition has marked the death of the person who used to weep, visit, and not to mention console the families of slain rebels. Now we see the birth of a person who supremely believes in the ‘idea of India’. However, one is least surprised by her moves as it was bound to come given her attempt to rejuvenate her relationship with the BJP.
The PDP in general and Ms Mehbooba in particular have once again proved the point that no so-called mainstream political party is better or worse; on the contrary, they are all the same. They all use the same degree of oppression and dejection against the people of Kashmir. The ascent of the PDP to power has changed nothing, except Mehbooba and Omar have interchanged their seats and beliefs. First, Mehbooba asked questions in assembly about the oppression, killings and fake encounters and now Omar has started asking the same questions. The party in opposition always debates and denounces the government over state oppression and killings or for that matter on other issues such as Sainik colonies, separate townships, etc. When the party itself comes to power, they forget about all these issues or the issues of similar nature. As it is rightly said, “it is easy to criticize than to correct.” The PDP across Kashmir was widely perceived by many to harbour a soft corner for Kashmiris. However, their recent claims and coalitions have proved otherwise. Earlier they pretended that election boycotts were helping other parties to win the elections, but in future they need not worry as it will be helping them.
The government in power no longer questions the former government over the civilian killings of 2010. The PDP coalition government itself has remained mum about the killings under their watch. The Chief Minister had not long ago protested in the assembly against the hanging of Afzal Guru and sought to bring his mortal remains back. The irony is that Mehbooba Mufti has remained silent on Handwara killing or over many fake encounters by the Government forces during her reign. The PDP has failed deplorably in taking action against the guilty. Not to mention, they have not found it felicitous to speak against them, as they fear it may strain their relationships with the central government.
While in the opposition, Mehbooba’s PDP was vocal against the AFSPA and mocked its rival, National Conference, and former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, for failing to repeal the law during their six years in government. Soon after taking over the charge of the state, Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, told media persons, “What is more important, repealing AFSPA or return of peace?” This was a shocking statement for the optimistic people of Kashmir who thought the new government, whom they had voted to power, would repeal the draconian law.
In July 2009, Mehbooba was demanding demilitarisation of the state because there were only 500 rebels present in Kashmir. Despite the fact that less than 200 rebels are active in the state now (according to govt. officials), she maintains a cowardly silence on the issue.
The RSS-tuned-PDP no longer talks about human rights abuses at the hands of the Indian army, paramilitary, and the J&K police. It does not make demands for the revocation of black laws like the AFSPA, and punishment for the perpetrators, as its leaders used to while they were in the opposition. Now it turns out that Mehbooba and her party’s previous stance was a mere political gimmick and nothing more. On the contrary, the PDP-BJP government has house-arrested, arrested or jailed all the pro-freedom leaders whose unity they are afraid of and whom they were supposed to give ample space for dialogues and discussions.
In their short reign, Mehooba’s PDP government has succeeded the NC in suppressing the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Their governance has confirmed some pro-freedom leader’s views that no pro-Indian political party is better than others, when it comes to oppression, civilian killings, and fake encounters. All of them seem to be helpless before the central government. Lord Acton amply remarked once, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The same holds true for Mehbooba and her party.
Fasil Hussain Rather is a student at Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. Ameen Hussain Rather is a student of Law at the University of Kashmir.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘The Beat and the Hungry generation: When losing became hip’, edited by Goirick Brahmachari, poet & Abhimanyu Kumar, poet/journalist, New Delhi, India.