'Who is Mehbooba to ask for dialogue'? Separatists hit out after CM-Modi meet
When Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, the only thing that piqued the interest in Kashmir was the potential fallout of the meeting on the PDP-BJP coalition in the state.
And as the discourse in local media made it clear, few people looked forward to the announcement of the talks, nor aspired for it; among them separatist and civil society groups.
As it turned out, the Mehbooba-Modi meeting has introduced nothing new into the situation. The coalition will go on regardless, even though the BJP has done little to address the reasons for the PDP's unease, be it the poaching of a Legislative Council seat or its longstanding demand for a political outreach.
The high-profile meeting has thus only reinforced the status quo, a major trigger of the prevailing troubled state of affairs.
Who is Mehbooba to ask for dialogue?
Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for the Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference, said: “What was there in the meeting to look forward to? Who is Mehbooba Mufti? We know the reality of Kashmiri pro-India leaders. They have no independent political identity of their own. They are there to enjoy power at any cost, whether people in Kashmir live or die. Delhi treats the so-called 'mainstream leaders' as its subjects. Who is Mehbooba to ask for a dialogue? She herself rules at the pleasure of New Delhi.”
Akbar said that Mehbooba could have done herself 'a world of good' had she stepped down following the killings and blindings last year. “But as I said, the only thing the pro-India leaders want is power. So, their politics is of little value to Kashmir,” Akbar said.
Similarly, Shahidul Islam, the spokesman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, said Mehbooba had little role in the larger effort to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“Her meeting with PM Modi was an internal matter between coalition partners. She had to sort out the differences with her coalition partner, and has apparently been given three months to perform or perish,” Islam said. “As for the resolution of Kashmir is concerned, this needs New Delhi to act. Mehbooba is nobody.”
Hameeda Nayeem, the chairperson of the Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies, said the sole purpose of Mehbooba's meeting with Prime Minister Modi was to save her government, “of course, garnished with noises about the dialogue”.
“As the clamour about Governor's Rule grew, Mehbooba sought a meeting with PM Modi to beg for the continuance of the coalition. This bit about the dialogue with separatists and Vajpayee was to lend it a false higher purpose,” Nayeem told Catch. “But nobody in Kashmir has been fooled. People know the worth of such meetings.”
Nayeem also made fun of Mehbooba's pitch for dialogue. “On one hand, Mehbooba says that the only way out of the present crisis is dialogue, and on the other, she says the dialogue will be held after peace returns to Kashmir. This is self-contradictory. This is laughable. All that the CM is concerned about is her power. New Delhi, as her meeting with PM has once again revealed, doesn't give a damn about her demands,” Nayeem said.
What about the 'Agenda of Alliance'?
There is also growing disquiet in Kashmir about the non-implementation of the Agenda of Alliance, and PDP's silence about it. BJP has shown little inclination to meet its commitments in the agenda, which formed the basis of the ideologically-antithetical coalition.
At the same time, while PDP seems to have gone quiet over its ideological agenda, or entered into a sort of ideological and political trade-off with its alliance partner, BJP has more or less freely plied its agenda. What is more, Mehbooba, it is believed, has little autonomy to deal with the situation.
“What we have is an out-and-out security approach towards the situation in Kashmir. And Mehbooba has been forced to go along with it. This hasn't improved the situation, but it has taken a terrible toll on her political credibility,” said columnist Naseer Ahmad. “The situation is likely to go on like this. New Delhi is unlikely to trust her with her political judgement. Nor is she likely to press harder for it.”
However, while the Mehbooba-Modi meeting has done little to curb these anxieties, it has temporarily put to rest the growing speculation about the survival of the state government.
“Rumour-mongering had increased in recent days. People didn't think the government would survive. But after the Mehbooba-Modi meeting, such rumours will die down,” Rekha Chaudhury, the noted academician, said. “The Mehbooba-led government, it appears, has been given a three-month reprieve. If the situation doesn't improve, we could very well have Governor's Rule.”