COMMENT: After being sworn in as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in Jammu on Sunday at the head of a PDP-BJP coalition, which permits the saffron party to be part of a government in Kashmir for the first time since Independence, Mufti Muhammed Sayeed has indicated that his priority would be to keep the political atmosphere steady with the help of the separatist Hurriyat Conference as well as Pakistan.
Peace was a pre-requisite for governance and development, the CM noted. He also observed that the peaceful election (which produced the government he heads) with high voting would not have been possible if Pakistan and the Hurriyat had disrupted the polls.
None of this is irrelevant or untrue. But it must be recalled that the extremists on both sides of the LoC held their hand (even if extremism and terrorism have been down in the Valley for several years, acts of violence can be contrived almost at will, and at election time they may have had a disruptive effect) at election time as they calculated that a violence-disrupted election with very low polling could help the BJP to win seats in the Valley.
It was then thought inconceivable that the PDP, seen as replacement for the National Conference then in office, would align with the BJP, whose Hindu-oriented credentials continue to be interrogated in the Valley.
Thus, the Mufti does disservice to history when he proposes that the terrorists and their mentors let peaceful elections be held as they wanted the democratic process to be fortified in Kashmir and peace to be given a chance under Mufti’s leadership.
This could be the Mufti’s agenda, but not of Pakistan’s or that of the Hurriyat and the armed groups they nurtured.
That aside, however, under the Modi dispensation in New Delhi, the Centre should continue to speak with all sections in the Valley, including the separatists, and also meaningfully engage Pakistan to explore prospects for normality.
The last NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee had worked on this approach, and the UPA government of Manmohan Singh kept up talks with Pakistan over a 10-year period.
Article 370, the AFSPA and citizenship certificates for Hindus and Sikhs who came from Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Jammu have been sensitive issues in negotiating the PDP-BJP alliance.
The BJP last week agreed in Parliament not to tinker with Art. 370, a major climb-down.
The PDP has agreed that scrapping the AFSPA won’t be an event but a process.
The refugee issue remains unsettled. But with the two parties prioritising power, discordant notes have been glided over.
There could be merit in this approach, but both must remain ever watchful.
The BJP will bear in mind that the present denouement owes to PM Modi’s personal supervision. – Comment by Asian Age