Local party leaders must save Kashmir from the RSS

History will not forgive Mehbooba and Omar if they neglect the task or fail at it.

The land we have known and loved faces today a real existential threat. It stands at the very brink of a precipice. A single wrong step and Kashmir will be gone for good into the domain of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Its lifelong pracharak (activist) Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. That very year, Kashmir was to go to the polls. The RSS’s political department, the BJP, hit upon a plan: Sweep the polls in Hindu-majority Jammu, acquire the support of some touts in Kashmir and form a government. It was called “44-plus”.

The Assembly in Srinagar has 87 seats. The people foiled the plan. Departing from the practice of boycotting elections, they voted enthusiastically for Kashmiri parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC). PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his three associates turned out to be more unscrupulous than suspected. Defying the people’s expressed wishes and ignoring offers by the NC and the Congress, they forged an alliance with the BJP. The coalition broke up when the BJP withdrew support as its vote in Jammu began dwindling. The governor, N.N. Vohra, imposed governor’s rule on June 20, 2018, since none had a majority in the House.

Soon Ram Madhav began working with Sajjad Lone for a BJP government. As late as on November 15, governor Satya Pal Malik declared: “The Assembly will not be dissolved”. On Nov 21, he dissolved it citing puerile reasons — “horse-trading had started 20 days ago”. Why then the resolve of November 15? “Opposing ideologies”. That did not prevent the BJP from forming coalitions in New Delhi. The real reason is that till November 15, the BJP’s pet Sajjad Lone was the sole contender for the chief minister’s chair. It panicked when Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah agreed to join hands to keep the RSS/BJP away.

From Srinagar on November 21, 2018, Mehbooba Mufti wrote to Malik, who was in Jammu, staking her claim and citing support from the NC and Congress. Malik panicked. He knew that Sajjad did not command a majority as the PDP-NC-Congress combine irrefutably did. The governor’s treachery as that of Sajjad Lone provides a blessing for the people of Kashmir — provided its leaders rise to the occasion. It provides ground for hope that the politicians will join hands to fight in defence of Kashmir’s rights which Sajjad Lone and his BJP patrons would have readily bartered away for a few crumbs of power. Mehbooba acted wisely in taking the initiative to seek Omar Abdullah’s support and that of his father Farooq Abdullah; as they did by responding.

But, on November 22, NC vice president Omar Abdullah spoke of a “temporary grand alliance with the PDP and the Congress to safeguard the special status of J&K in the Supreme Court.” Will it, then, vanish after the Court’s verdict?

Both parties are legitimately locked in a democratic contest for power. But their people’s terrible plight should make them define the limits to the contest, the area in which they must cooperate and the activities which they could jointly undertake. To begin with, they must draw up a joint declaration on Kashmir’s autonomy and its future course for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

Both are agreed on autonomy and on negotiations with both Pakistan and India. Add to these, matters of daily concern to the people in law and order, lifting of curbs on Hurriyat leaders, civil liberties, police excesses, etc. They must involve Kashmiri intellectuals, retired civil servants and the like. This might well be their last chance, lest carpetbaggers take over Kashmir. History will not forgive Mehbooba and Omar if they neglect the task or fail at it.

By arrangement with Dawn

( Source : Columnist )
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