With public anger against the transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board spilling on to the streets, parties in Kashmir, particularly the Peoples’ Democratic Party, find themselves at the receiving end. While people fume it was National Conference that created the Board, they hold the PDP responsible for facilitating the land transfer. Ironic, since it was the PDP’s claim of the Congress using “blackmail” to get the land transferred that stirred up trouble in the first place.
According to official documents, Forest Minister Qazi Afzal, of the PDP, approved the land transfer and placed the official note before the cabinet. The cabinet, in its May 20 meeting attended by PDP ministers, took the land transfer decision unanimously. What is intriguing is that the decision was not only kept secret but Afzal, on May 23, said the cabinet had rejected the Board’s land transfer request. Maintaining complete secrecy, the formal order for land transfer was issued on May 30. It became public only when Raj Bhavan disclosed that the government had transferred 800 kanals of land to the Board on June 2.
Feeling the public pulse, the PDP then quickly did a U-turn. While PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said coalition compulsion had made her party agree to the transfer, Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig came out with the blackmail story, denied by the Congress. Then came another statement from Afzal, this time saying there was nothing wrong in the allotment of land.
The subsequent resentment prompted the PDP to issue an ultimatum to the government: withdraw the order or we walk out of the coalition. It set a June 30 deadline for revocation of the order. However, when even this failed to impress the man on the street, it turned to party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. “We are part of the government decision. We feel it was a wrong decision. We should rectify it,” he said on June 25.
Two days later, with the public showing no signs of calming down, it quite obvious the PDP’s plans have boomeranged.