This is a storm that could easily have been avoided. After casting about for a meeting ground for days on end, the PDP and the BJP came round to forming the government in Jammu and Kashmir, something the people of the state richly deserved. However, within 10 days of becoming chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ordered the release of Masarat Alam, a separatist, much to the indignation and embarrassment of the BJP and central government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking in the Lok Sabha on Monday, said that the Centre was not informed about Alam’s release. It is regrettable that Mr Sayeed has done so without consulting his coalition partner. If one gives credence to reports emanating from the Valley, more such militants might be released. Having been in a coalition with the Congress once earlier, Mr Sayeed should have known how to run such arrangements. He has already angered quite a few by ‘thanking’ Pakistan for the smooth electioneering in the state.
There had been some misgivings about this alliance because the two parties had been overtly critical of each other during their election campaigns. More than that, their views on India and nationhood were highly divergent. Yet despite these obstacles if the two parties could join hands, there was much to be optimistic about. The common minimum programme that was worked out displayed a considerable sense of maturity in the way it allowed the status quo on Article 370 to prevail and left enough scope for a dialogue with the Hurriyat and carrying on the peace process with Pakistan. Having travelled this far, it would be a tragedy to put the clock back because it might spark another round of disturbances in the Valley, much like the ones seen in 2010, in a power vacuum. It is also significant that the man just released had been incarcerated because of his participation in stone throwing that year.
The Centre is not happy with the PDP’s explanation and has asked for another report. Before much time is lost Mr Sayeed should explain to the Centre the reasons for his action and if at all there was any merit in it. And now that there is a semblance of peace in the Valley, he should take the first step towards reaching out to the Hurriyat. All this must be done keeping the central government in the loop.