Sajad Gani Lone, a leader of the People's Conference, in Srinagar, May 22, 2007(REUTERS)
Sajad Gani Lone, a leader of the People's Conference, in Srinagar, May 22, 2007(REUTERS)

Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah should welcome a third force in Kashmir, writes Barkha Dutt

If a new political force is born from the chaos and contradictions of Kashmir politics today, Delhi should welcome it. And the other two Valley-based parties should stop complaining. If Delhi is to blame for the lack of forward movement in Kashmir today; so are they.
UPDATED ON JUL 14, 2018 02:22 PM IST

His father was assassinated by Pakistan-based militants; his wife is a Pakistani citizen; his father-in-law was a founding member of the 29-year-old violent Kashmir secessionist insurgency, his brother is with the Hurriyat Conference and until he openly blamed Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) for the murder of his father, Sajad Lone, 51, was also a separatist who demanded freedom for Kashmir.

Today, he has emerged as the leading face of what’s being called the ‘Third Front’ in the Kashmir Valley. He is also one of the most outspoken and unequivocal critics of militancy, making him a high-security target and perennially vulnerable.

The one thing Sajad Lone is not scared of is risk. In the two decades I have known him as a reporter, Sajad has always rolled the dice on the board game of chance, changing the rules of play, with altering circumstances. In 2002, he was the first separatist to flirt with electoral politics by fielding a proxy candidates in a poll widely considered a watershed moment for its absolute fairness. His vision document on “achievable nationhood” may have graduated into an altered and more pragmatic version of itself. But you have to credit Sajad Lone for constantly reinventing and readapting to the shifting sands of a volatile ground situation. Once dismissed as a floating and fickle individual vote, his attempts to build a third force today — one that his supporters say will take Kashmir politics beyond the “Mufti and Abdullah dynasts” — has obviously caused enough anxiety for both Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah to be worried, angry and a tad nervous.

Confronted with outspoken rebels who have questioned her style of leadership, the former chief minister — who was summarily dumped by the BJP — is now warning of more ‘Salahuddins’ if “New Delhi” tries to break her party. Her analogy is absolutely misplaced. Her outburst refers to the 1987 election in which Syed Salahuddin, the militant chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was a candidate and Yasin Malik, today a secessionist with the JKLF, was his polling agent. The elections were marred by allegations of widespread rigging which delivered the win to the National Conference candidate. It’s widely believed that the fate of Kashmir may have been different had the elections been transparent and honest.

But how does Mehbooba’s example apply today? There are no manipulated campaigns or captured booths. There are no candidates who have slipped in through the back door. The political impasse in the state today is because of the fractured mandate of the 2014 assembly election results and because of the short shelf life of a coalition she led. Both she and the BJP must carry the cross for that collapse.

Yes, there may be nothing especially charming about parties splitting, politicians flipping sides and coming together to cobble together new entities. But it is absolutely legitimate politics. It happens in every other state of India. Why should Jammu and Kashmir not be allowed its share of plain vanilla number-crunching? In fact mundane politics should be the ultimate measure of a certain kind of limited normalcy. Why such hysteria?

It is irresponsible to suggest, as Mufti has, that the mere galvanisation of a third party would push militancy higher. In fact, in Kashmir, it is mainstream party workers, whether from her party or that of the National Conference or from smaller groups like Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference, who face the biggest threats from terrorism. Why would the routine unveiling of politics spur on militants any further? Her angry comments betray a visible anxiety and simultaneously convey an obvious warning to intelligence agencies whom she clearly blames for these developments. This tendency to blame Delhi’s invisible hand and its covert agencies for political churning is exactly how the Abdullahs-led National Conference explained their own cataclysmic defeat after 16 years at the hands of Mehbooba Mufti and her father in 2002. She should reflect on that irony today.

Naturally, Omar Abdullah, her main opponent, has pounced on Mufti’s comments and slammed them. But a few days ago he too seemed exercised at a possible split in Mehbooba’s party going on the record to call it a threat to democracy. This was intriguing. Why would Mufti’s main challenger and the leader of the National Conference be concerned about the PDP? Perhaps, because a third party challenges the hegemony of the two-party status quo. Of course, were his party actually to grow, Sajad Lone too will face tough questions on he will avoid running it like a family firm.

But for now Delhi should sit out this one and let it conclude naturally. The BJP attack on Mehbooba Mufti’s soft separatism is as disingenuous as her criticism of their policies — they were eyes-wide-open partners till a few weeks ago.

If a new political force is born from the chaos and contradictions of Kashmir politics today, Delhi should welcome it. And the other two Valley-based parties should stop complaining. If Delhi is to blame for the lack of forward movement in Kashmir today, so are they.

Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
It takes courage to push a conversation that evokes almost zero public sympathy in an audience that is inclined to believe that consent has no place on the marital bed(Shutterstock)
It takes courage to push a conversation that evokes almost zero public sympathy in an audience that is inclined to believe that consent has no place on the marital bed(Shutterstock)

The conversation India refuses to have

By Namita Bhandare
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 08:01 PM IST
In the past few years, India has broken traditional silences on sexual abuse, on consent, and on the rights of sexual minorities. It’s time to break another traditional silence
Close
What other, newer democracies find relatively easy — conducting an election, the counting of votes, the peaceful transition of power — seems to have befuddled the US. There can be and must not be any normalisation of gross prejudice or violence(AP)
What other, newer democracies find relatively easy — conducting an election, the counting of votes, the peaceful transition of power — seems to have befuddled the US. There can be and must not be any normalisation of gross prejudice or violence(AP)

After anarchy in the US, reimagining the middle ground

UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:53 PM IST
Governments have to learn how to engage with those who did not vote for them. Citizens have to learn how to converse amidst ideological divisions
Close
Mohammed Siraj led India’s breakthrough in the ongoing tour of Australia. But he grew up playing tennis ball cricket and first held a real cricket ball only five years ago.(Getty Images)
Mohammed Siraj led India’s breakthrough in the ongoing tour of Australia. But he grew up playing tennis ball cricket and first held a real cricket ball only five years ago.(Getty Images)

The secret weapons of a fast-bowling nation

By Rudraneil Sengupta | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 03:31 PM IST
Surprise finds are making their mark in the India bowling line-up, but they aren’t coming up through the system.
Close
A New York street in the 1920s. Just two decades earlier, in the age of horse-drawn vehicles, people had feared their cities would be buried in manure. Then the internal combustion engine took horses off the streets altogether, a shift often used to illustrate the unpredict-able fallouts of new tech.(Shutterstock)
A New York street in the 1920s. Just two decades earlier, in the age of horse-drawn vehicles, people had feared their cities would be buried in manure. Then the internal combustion engine took horses off the streets altogether, a shift often used to illustrate the unpredict-able fallouts of new tech.(Shutterstock)

The horseshit paradox: Why fears about tech are wildly exaggerated

By Charles Assisi | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 03:11 PM IST
Our world runs on complexity. And no machine we have created — or look likely to create — can truly navigate that complexity by itself, says Charles Assisi.
Close
It is no surprise that all kinds of protests are being seen in many parts of the world at the moment(SHUTTERSTOCK)
It is no surprise that all kinds of protests are being seen in many parts of the world at the moment(SHUTTERSTOCK)

This decade will be decisive for democracy, capitalism

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 03, 2021 10:07 PM IST
There is another fact which needs attention. Human civilisation has always discovered new light in the darkest days of crisis. With this hope, let us welcome this new decade.
Close
A vibrant corporate capitalist base also leads to additional revenues for the State — which, in turn, can be used for greater welfare for the marginalised and creating a more level-playing field in terms of opportunities(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
A vibrant corporate capitalist base also leads to additional revenues for the State — which, in turn, can be used for greater welfare for the marginalised and creating a more level-playing field in terms of opportunities(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

In defence of reformed capitalism

PUBLISHED ON JAN 02, 2021 07:05 PM IST
Targeting corporate capitalism won’t help. It is essential for growth and democracy. Focus on reforming it.
Close
A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a Covid-19 vaccine, Lima, December 9, 2020(AFP)
A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a Covid-19 vaccine, Lima, December 9, 2020(AFP)

A robust public broadcaster can guard against anti-vaccine rumours

By Mark Tully
PUBLISHED ON JAN 02, 2021 07:02 PM IST
There seems no reason to doubt that a large number of Indians are, to say the least, undiscriminating in the source of news they chose to watch. This will make them liable to fall prey to false information which can undermine the vaccination campaign.
Close
The silence and loneliness of being on my own is no longer intimidating. In fact - and I know that sounds a little perverse – I’ve enjoyed it. So this morning I feel I don’t want to lose it. At least, not completely.(HTPHOTO)
The silence and loneliness of being on my own is no longer intimidating. In fact - and I know that sounds a little perverse – I’ve enjoyed it. So this morning I feel I don’t want to lose it. At least, not completely.(HTPHOTO)

Goodbye to all that? I’m not so sure

UPDATED ON JAN 02, 2021 06:55 PM IST
The honest truth – and you’ve probably guessed it by now – is that I’m going into 2021 with a little trepidation or, if that’s too strong a word, more than a touch of hesitation.
Close
n many ways, Modi’s economic vision resembles that of the United Kingdom prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the United States President Ronald Reagan. Both faced an avalanche of opposition to their push for economic reforms(PTI)
n many ways, Modi’s economic vision resembles that of the United Kingdom prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the United States President Ronald Reagan. Both faced an avalanche of opposition to their push for economic reforms(PTI)

Farm stir: Latest attempt to stop Modi’s reforms

By Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda
PUBLISHED ON JAN 01, 2021 08:06 PM IST
The Opposition may continue to denigrate him, but millions see in the PM a rare determination and willingness to take risks and cleanse the rot
Close
US President-elect Joe Biden in Delaware, December 29, 2020(REUTERS)
US President-elect Joe Biden in Delaware, December 29, 2020(REUTERS)

Biden has no record of missteps on India

PUBLISHED ON JAN 01, 2021 08:06 PM IST
With the Chinese amassing troops along the border, Indians want to see more, even as they acknowledge that the US will not conduct its foreign policy to please India, echoing a Democratic congressional aide who is normally sympathetic to India but is frustrated by “constant pushing on China”.
Close
Ancient calendars could be intricate, beautiful, but confusing. Above is a section of the ancient Mayan calendar.(Shutterstock)
Ancient calendars could be intricate, beautiful, but confusing. Above is a section of the ancient Mayan calendar.(Shutterstock)

Lend me your years: How the Indian National Calendar came into being

By Rachel Lopez | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 02, 2021 08:29 PM IST
See how, back in 1955, an elite team headed by astrophysicist Meghnad Saha untangled India’s confusing variety of almanacs.
Close
An aangan in an old home in Mehrauli, New Delhi. A fixture since the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the courtyard faded away with the coming of Western-style architecture during colonial rule.(Mayank Austen Soofi)
An aangan in an old home in Mehrauli, New Delhi. A fixture since the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the courtyard faded away with the coming of Western-style architecture during colonial rule.(Mayank Austen Soofi)

Poonam Saxena writes on the true heart of the Indian home, the aangan

By Poonam Saxena | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 01, 2021 07:04 PM IST
It now lives on largely in books and film, but the courtyard was where we cooked, celebrated, slept under the stars on summer nights.
Close
After a traumatic and turbulent 2020, it’s time to ring in a New Year with hope. And since Rabindranath Tagore is being rediscovered by our netas ahead of the Bengal elections, this is a prayer for India in 2021 that draws inspiration from the great poet-laureate.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
After a traumatic and turbulent 2020, it’s time to ring in a New Year with hope. And since Rabindranath Tagore is being rediscovered by our netas ahead of the Bengal elections, this is a prayer for India in 2021 that draws inspiration from the great poet-laureate.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

A ‘new’ India can’t be built by abandoning the core values of our founding fathers

UPDATED ON JAN 01, 2021 06:01 AM IST
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. Where an Indian identity is determined by citizenship, and not divided by the narrow domestic walls of caste, region or religion. Where true secularism demands that no state authority promote or discriminate against any religion, where equal respect for all faiths must be the basis of our constitutional secularism.
Close
The farmers’ protest may be geographically limited, but the ripples it has caused are international.(ANI)
The farmers’ protest may be geographically limited, but the ripples it has caused are international.(ANI)

The year is almost over, but scars will remain

By Shashi Shekhar
PUBLISHED ON DEC 27, 2020 06:13 PM IST
The year 2020 will be known as a year of bias, discontent, isolation and apprehensions. These can be brushed away by blaming the pandemic, but the virus merely amplified existing tendencies.
Close
The argument Covid-19 did not permit the session is specious. For a start, Parliament’s earlier functioning disproves it. The monsoon session was held in September when daily cases crossed 95,000. So how can a situation when the increase has reduced to under 25,000 be a credible reason for not holding the winter session?(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
The argument Covid-19 did not permit the session is specious. For a start, Parliament’s earlier functioning disproves it. The monsoon session was held in September when daily cases crossed 95,000. So how can a situation when the increase has reduced to under 25,000 be a credible reason for not holding the winter session?(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Parliament should sit more often

UPDATED ON DEC 26, 2020 07:36 PM IST
The bigger moral argument rests on the belief Parliament is special. It represents our nation. It speaks for us and symbolises our resolve. So if the temple of our democracy ducks the challenge of functioning in a time of the virus what’s the example it sets for the rest of us and what’s the message it sends to the world beyond our borders?
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP