The spate of violence in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani has come at a time when the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was trying to rebuild its image, “severely dented” by its alliance with the BJP.
The volatile situation is certainly a worrying factor for J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who appeared to have regained some lost ground with her victory in last month’s by-election.
The fact that majority of civilian deaths in violent protests occurred in south Kashmir, a PDP stronghold, is also a cause of concern for Mehbooba though her party colleagues hope that “as in the past, this turbulent phase” would also be over soon.
Political analysts are of the view that Mehbooba should try to assuage the “hurt” feelings of the people and the only way she could do it was to ensure that the agenda of alliance is implemented in letter and spirit.
“She should apologise to people and also try to push her own agenda rather than that of the BJP,” said Prof Noor Ahmed Baba of Kashmir University. “The first and foremost is to initiate steps to withdraw AFSPA and start a dialogue process with Hurriyat and other separatist groups. Kashmir cannot be separated from its larger political context,” he said.
Political observers blame PDP’s alliance with BJP for the deteriorating situation and increase in militancy-related incidents in Kashmir.
“BJP is not acceptable to people of Kashmir. This was evident from a huge anti-BJP sentiment in 2014 elections. Naturally, the alliance is highly unpopular,” Baba said.
Rebel PDP leader and Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, Tariq Hameed Karra, was unsparing on the coalition government. “Its claims about zero tolerance, maximum restraint and standard operational procedures are mere hollow rhetoric pleasing to ears only,” he said. “It seems that systematic genocide by repressive and oppressive measures tailored by hawks both in J&K and Centre is being executed unabatedly.”
Under fire from her political opponents, Mehbooba has asked her party ministers and legislators to reach out to people and travel across the Valley. A number of PDP leaders privately admit that the leadership is worried about the political fallout. “Obviously, NC and Congress are the natural beneficiaries of the growing resentment against our party,” said a PDP leader. “It is reflected in the PDP’s reduced popularity in Kashmir.”