CM Mufti Sayeed’s powerlessness hurts Kashmir
The coalition government in J-K has worked to the BJP’s advantage and worsened polarisation in the state
The beef ban row in Jammu and Kashmir killed a 20-year-old trucker recently. While the violence is growing, it is surprising to hear chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed saying that the alliance between his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP is for peace, development and better tourism.
Since the coalition government was formed in March there has been no peace but only rifts between the two partners. The PDP is losing ground due to the BJP’s authoritarian form of governance; for Muslim voters the PDP has only been a facilitator for the BJP’s agenda.
The ‘Agenda of Alliance’ put together by the two parties boasted that it ‘will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders’, including the separatists. This has proved to be a hoax in power. The BJP is opposed to the separatists being part of any dialogue.
Sayeed is the CM but power lies with the BJP, which rules the Centre as well. Contrary to the promises of peace, violence has not stopped. According to reports, 77 militants and 45 security personnel were killed in the first nine months of 2015. Unidentified gunmen have also been prominent during this time, killing 35 civilians, mostly former militants and separatist sympathisers.
Issues like the revocation of the AFSPA, settling West Pakistan refugees, return of Kashmiri Pandits, restricting the movement of separatist leaders, and the failure to deliver flood relief, revoke the ban on student unions or ensure the return of hydropower projects have showed the PDP’s compromised position. The party won the polls on an anti-Modi campaign but later joined hands with the BJP; showing that what mattered to the PDP was power, and not the voters.
The PDP has found itself caught in powerlessness and has taken the backseat on various issues concerning the Valley. The elections saw the PDP win 28 seats and the BJP 25 representing Kashmir and Jammu respectively. This meant a government by two parties ideologically opposed to each other — in Sayeed’s own words “north pole and south pole”. As shown by the controversial seven-month rule, the parties have not been able to come closer but the PDP has compromised. With the rising gap and opposition within the government, the gap between Jammu and Kashmir has increased.
The government is divided and the PDP is at a loss, while the BJP has gained. In 2008 also, it was the BJP that benefited from the protests against the Amarnath land revocation order. Security officials are also pointing out that violence has increased since the new government came to power. All this is alienating a Hindu-majority Jammu from a Muslim-majority Kashmir, which could result in a massive change in state politics.
The relation between the two parties is fragile like the two regions, wherein the BJP is easily using the PDP for its own agenda. Last week, the BJP state unit claimed that it was gaining strength in Kashmir, as more than 80% booth-level committees have been constituted.
In future, it may entail the division of the state as such discussions have already sprouted. The development would establish that the “north pole and south pole” didn’t meet for communal harmony but communal division, and the PDP played a key role.
Fahad Shah is a journalist and founding editor of The Kashmir Walla
The views expressed are personal