When Mufti Muhammad Sayeed assumed office as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in 2002, he had marketed his “healing touch policy” effectively, but failed to implement it on the ground. And when the policy drew severe criticism, the individual who is now generally known as the PDP spokesperson came to his rescue. The party’s healing touch policy became its philosophy, and the rest is history: the Special Operations Group (SOG) was disbanded, but only on paper – in reality, it continues to be a frontline anti-insurgency force even today – and despite the Jama’at-e-Islami’s tacit support to Mufti, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was almost wiped out from South Kashmir. Notwithstanding the one feather in Mufti’s cap, the suspension of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which succeeding regimes did not revoke, his ‘Healing Touch Policy’ did not bring any respite to the mauled Kashmir Valley, the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal region.
Last week, while still deemed Chief Minister, Mufti invoked the formula once again, and despite the rather surreptitious translation of “philosophy” into “policy,” he could not but have been skeptical of people being taken in once again. But given the politician that he is, Mufti must not have made such a vital statement just for the sake of making a statement. That he has a plan of action this time is a possibility one may not dismiss out of hand, for the time being, that is.
Official data on the three years of his healing touch during the PDP-Cong coalition make for dismal reading: A total of 43 Judicial/Magisterial/ Administrative probes were ordered during his chief ministership, but ‘action’ was taken in only four cases, and constituted of reinstating guilty officers. Probe findings were never made public in the rest. Now that he has been sworn in as Chief Minister once again, he must make public the results of the probes ordered during his previous tenure, fix responsibility and punish the guilty if he wants anyone to take his healing touch policy seriously.
Further, promises of withdrawing cases against stone-pelters that PDP leaders have repeatedly made during electioneering must be fulfilled, as those booked in this category are mostly students, and need Mufti’s healing touch. Relatives of people subjected to enforced disappearances, particularly half-widows, have been demanding a probe into episodes that tore their lives apart. Unmarked graves found by a human rights group in Jammu and Kashmir also merit the new Chief Minister’s special consideration as relatives of the ‘disappeared’ believe that their loved ones might be buried at these sites. The previous government had rejected the demand for DNA profiling. Can Mufti do otherwise?