Bad Start

It is understandable that Mufti Muhammad Sayeed should feel entitled to a certain amount of exuberance at having come to power in Jammu and Kashmir in coalition with a right-wing party. The euphoria, in such loquacious evidence during his post-oath speech, is understandable also on a rather intimately personal count of Mr. Sayeed having become chief minister for a second time, and for a full term at that, even if that cherished dream has been realized at a slightly advanced age of seventy-nine. His spin doctors, however, would be wise to take some moments of rest, and take care not to feed him what in all likelihood may turn him into a big disappointment.

His ecstatic statements at a press conference in Jammu soon after being sworn in are a reminder of the platitudes he was habitual of dispensing so generously in his earlier stint, even if state repression had eased during that period, and people found it a little easier to breathe. But since he had been fixated on looking at the situation the way he wanted to and not the way it was, he would gushingly proclaim darkness-ridden Kashmir having finally witnessed its long-awaited dawn – because shops in Lal Chowk remained open for a little over one-and-three-quarters-of-an-hour after dusk.

If that was going wild with embellishments, crediting Pakistan, the Hurriyat and the militants for so-called smooth recent elections in Kashmir is stretching credulity much too far – a thoroughly inauspicious way to usher in “accountable” government, and the worst imaginable route into the good books of Pakistan, the Hurriyat and the militants.

First the facts:

All Hurriyat leaders who had openly declared to launch a poll boycott campaign had either been jailed or imprisoned in their homes. Hundreds of pro-freedom activists and supporters had been taken into what authorities describe as preventive custody. Youth, who in the past had been booked on charges of stone-throwing, were on the run, and in some cases, their fathers or brothers had been put behind bars to prevent stone-pelting on elections days. PDP candidates had told several of these youth that cases against them would be withdrawn if they voted. Many did. The state’s military and police apparatus had clipped their wings. How does the question of their allowing or disturbing polls arise?

Similarly, going by police reports which neither the PDP nor any other pro-India party has contradicted, militants killed two or three sarpanchs and a few other political activists before polls, and the United Jihad Council issued an appeal asking people to boycott elections. That being said, what realistic chance would a hundred-odd militants hiding in forests, a beleaguered pro-freedom leadership and repressed street protesters have stood against a half-a-million-strong military machine and ever-vigilant intelligence agencies? It seems that Mr Sayeed’s intent in crediting the Hurriyat and the militants was purely to cover up the repression that makes elections possible in Kashmir.