Srinagar: Jammu & Kashmir’s former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday, October 23, emerged potently in her first open confrontation against the Bharatiya Janata Party led central government as parties in Kashmir are attempting a resurgence after facing a year of political torment.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president’s overture, however, indicated the regional parties will resume business as usual with whatever little remains to maintain their position on the mainstream side of the political spectrum.
Mufti, who was released recently after a 14-month long detention, in her maiden presser spoke in front of Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile state flag claiming that she will not uphold the Indian national flag until the state flag and constitution are restored.
“I will not raise the national flag until the state flag is restored. The Indian flag is here only because of the state flag and its constitution which linked us with the rest of the country,” she said as she launched a scathing attack on BJP.
The former chief minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government from 2016-2018 brought back the focus on the larger political issue of Kashmir which she said remains at the core of her party’s agenda.
“Our fight includes demand for the restoration of Article 370 but I want to remind the people in Delhi that Kashmir issue is an issue. You cannot keep the eyes closed like a pigeon to ward off a cat. My party’s core resolve is to take Kashmir region out of this quagmire and turn it into a bridge of peace which was also the core agenda of my late father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed,” she added.
The PDP leader was clarifying her position after many claimed that BJP was able to change the goalpost for the regional mainstream parties and that the pre-August 5 position has replaced the older goalposts which included implementation of UN resolutions or pre-1953 position when Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed actual autonomy or the “special status” guaranteed under Article 370.
Also read: 'Will Take Back What was Snatched on August 5': Mehbooba Mufti After Release From Detention
The mainstream political parties including the PDP, National Conference (NC), Congress, Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference (PC), Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Awami National Conference (ANC) have formed a coalition, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, aimed to restore the “special status” of the region which existed before the August 5, 2019 decision.
“Gupkar 2 is just a facade. Every Kashmiri knows that special status is not going to return and they are being taken for a ride by d Gupkaris. But a good gain for Modi govt is that 2019 has replaced 1953. Welcome to realpolitik.(sic),” BJP leader Ram Madhav, who has been active in Kashmir affairs, had tweeted after the new alliance was forged.
Mufti also thanked former IAS officer from Kerala, Kanan Gopinathan, who had resigned from the civil services as a mark of protest against the restrictions imposed in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in August last year. The leader, however, expressed no discomfort when asked as to how she saw the three NC leaders including Farooq Abdullah continuing their role as the Members of Parliament. Even as Mufti, like Omar, has distanced herself from participating in the upcoming electoral processes, she said that the final decision on whether to contest elections or not will be taken by the Gupkar alliance keeping the option open for the political parties including her own.
The 62-year-old refused to answer when she was asked about her meetings, if any, during her year long incarceration. She also said that she will not reveal details about people who came to meet her during this time.
The presser comes a day ahead of the political parties signatory to the Gupkar declaration are likely to meet on Saturday at the Gupkar residence to deliberate on the District Development Council (DDC) elections in J&K. The authorities are preparing to hold the maiden DDC elections soon, which has caught the regional parties in a state of dilemma as their participation would mean, many would argue, accepting the changes brought on by the revocation of Article 370 last year.
The boycott of polls and decisions brought after August 5 last year may gradually push these political parties away from the mainstream position, something that parties would detest. In both the cases, these mainstream parties seem to have been caught in a tight spot where depending on rhetoric alone cannot help them navigate amid the ongoing crisis.
Also read: J&K Parties Form People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration to Get Back Art 370
Both PDP and NC are raising their own bar as to meet with the expectations of the people in the region, which BJP argued did not protest even once due to their disliking for them when they were detained last year. To set the tone of her aggression, Mufti said, “Thousands of youth have given their blood to the Kashmir issue, now its the time for the leaders to give their own.” But, by raising mere rhetoric they are more likely threatening their own position.
The political parties including the PDP and NC had formed the mainstream of Kashmir because of their alliance with New Delhi from time to time, even as measures were being taken to dilute the powers and rights conferred to Kashmir under Article 370 beginning from 1953.