Kashmir’s political parties keep shifting their stance

Mehbooba Mufti, left, and Omar Abdullah change their stances on various Kashmir issues at the drop of a hat
Leaders or Dealers? : Mehbooba Mufti, left, and Omar Abdullah change their stances on various Kashmir issues at the drop of a hat

Kashmir-based political parties are known for their drastically divergent ideological stances in power and in opposition. From an oppositional politics centred on a pursuit of the settlement of Kashmir issue with its opportunistic flirtations with a quasi-separatist rhetoric and antagonism towards security establishment, they veer around to a staunch pro-New Delhi stance in power with an ease which often stuns their supporters. And nothing explains it better than the comparisons of the statements of PDP and NC in and out of power, which makes them mirror images of each other. In opposition, PDP would
aggressively champion self rule for Kashmir which called for a drastic redefining of the Kashmir’s relations with New Delhi in a broader politico-economic framework involving Pakistan. It also involves the radical constitutional restructuring, dual currency, roll-back of central laws, an elected governor, even the renaming of the titles of governor and chief minister as sadar-e-riyasat (president) and the prime minister respectively. In fact, in February 2009, the party decided to move a bill in Assembly to seek a vote on this. And in the same year October, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti at a press conference termed self rule as a “de-facto Azadi for Kashmir”.

But in power now, if there is a word that the party has studiously eschewed, it is self rule. Similarly, National Conference which forgot to mention or pursue its Kashmir settlement idea of autonomy in power is back to demanding it forcefully in opposition. “Whatever New Delhi has taken away rather snatched from us through force since 9 August 1953 should be given back to us and autonomy should be restored,” Omar Abdullah told an international news agency.

Much like the PDP in opposition in 2009, NC decided to move an antonomy resolution, in 2016. even while it had already passed it with a landslide majority in 2016. In fact, after Brexit, NC even sought the referendum on autonomy. And early this year, when BJP called for giving precedence to national flag over Kashmir flag, Omar Abdullah said that the J&K flag was our “pride, will protect it with blood”

“NC leaders dumped ‘Raishumari’ (plebiscite) in 1975 and aligned with BJP in 1996 after securing votes in the name of autonomy even though the latter wanted the article 370 scrapped altogether,” Mehbooba said in a statement in March 2014.

But following the outcome of November 2014 Assembly polls, PDP itself aligned with BJP and thus became a grudging party to the BJP’s autonomy-diluting agenda on the state, this is what NC had to say: “The erosion of Article 370 is the final aim of the PDP-BJP alliance. This opportunistic alliance was forged to first make Late Mufti Sahab and then Mehbooba Mufti the Chief Minister of the State. Mehbooba Mufti has been tasked with the duty of eroding Article 370 and discrediting the institutions of the State one by one”.

Similarly, in 2008, PDP supported the separatist march to Muzaffarabad when rightwing Hindu outfits imposed an economic blockade on Kashmir. “Unless the government shows some inclination to stop atrocities and initiates action against the killers of 110 innocent persons the Assembly session will lack any seriousness and credibility,” Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti said in 2010 when her party boycotted Assembly session in Srinagar in protest against the killings and the then state NC-led government’s protection of the security forces. “Had a kid gone to buy a toffee from an army camp? A 15-year-old boy who attacked a police station (in south Kashmir), had he gone to buy milk? Don’t compare the two,” Chief Minister Mehbooba said in 2010 when her attention was drawn towards the killings and blindings by the government forces.

Similarly, NC leader Omar Abdullah whose government killed 120 people in 2010 and didn’t punish any security personnel for the excesses has displayed outrage over the killings and the human rights violations now. “We express our heartfelt solidarity with the families of Muhammad Maqbool Wagay, Sameer Ahmed Wani and Danish Rasool Mir — a Class 12 student, all three of whom lost their lives yesterday; as well as to those fifty plus youth who have lost their lives in this unrest, including two policemen. The pain of their families is incomprehensible and these tragedies are completely inconsolable,” he said in a statement here. “Has New Delhi declared a war on the people in Kashmir?”

In opposition, PDP would champion self-rule for Kashmir, but when in power, it terms self-rule as de facto Azadi for the state

On July 17, Government seized the copies of all the other regional English and Urdu dailies in midnight raids across Srinagar. Cable Television was also forced off the air, denying people access to even the national news and entertainment channels. National Conference strongly condemned “the unprecedented assault and suppression of media in Kashmir by the Mehbooba Government.”

But in 2010, the then Omar Abdullah led NC-Congress coalition government had similarly seized the copies of the local papers to stop their distribution. In fact, the authorities had also restricted the movement of journalists in Srinagar. The curfew passes of all journalists in Srinagar were cancelled, and fresh passes were not issued.

And then opposition PDP had strongly condemned the move. “It is unprecedented for the state that local newspapers have failed to hit the stands for the third successive day because of government curbs”, then PDP spokesperson and now the education minister Naeem Akhtar had said in a statement in Srinagar.

In power, both parties have ensured that they don’t seem to be opposing the separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits, or for that matter the new entrant to the contentious debate, Sainik colonies. In fact, Mehbooba renamed exclusive Pandit colonies as “transit accommodations” but denied land was being allotted for Sainik colonies. And when a newspaper report revealed an ongoing construction at an Army encampment near Srinagar airport, Mehbooba said it was a routine construction work.

But in opposition, NC has hardened its opposition to the contemplated projects: “Sainik Colony could be a ruse to settle non-state subjects in Kashmir and hence will bypass Article 370,” said Omar Abdullah in response to Mehbooba’s defence.

“We are against separate clusters for Kashmiri Pandits. We welcome them (to Kashmir), but we will not let the government to create separate colonies for them,” NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said during a protest rally in June.

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