Srinagar: The furore over Muslim League leader Masrat Alam’s release is seen by many as New Delhi’s compulsive meddling into the affairs of the state and one more attempt to undermine the authority of state leaders.
By releasing Alam, the state Home department, headed by the Chief Minister, only implemented an order issued during the Governor’s rule, triggering an avalanche of sharp reactions from the Prime Minister to loud-mouthed TV anchors.
Were these reactions not a symptom of a phenomenon that began in 1953 when then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was unconstitutionally dismissed and arrested on New Delhi’s directions?
Political commentator Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said though law and order is a subject, state’s chief ministers have rarely resisted the central government’s diktats and interventions.
“And those who resisted were summarily removed from the chair. The government of India can intervene under rare circumstances such as when there’s breakdown of law and order machinery,” said Hussain, who teaches law at Central University of Kashmir.
Noor Ahmad Baba, who has taught political science at Kashmir University, said when it comes to Kashmir, “politics and law” often intertwine.
“A lot of distortions have happened after 1953 and post 1990 in the state. Basically, the government was run from New Delhi and whosoever resisted was removed,” Baba said.
“The authority of CM has been outrightly marginalised and the state Governor, who represents the government of India, is more powerful than any other Governor in India. It’s not person A or B has belittled the authority of the CM, but everyone in the chair has a structural constraint,” Baba said.
The general perception in the Valley is that New Delhi directly ruled the state when a massive anti-India uprising erupted during 2010, during which 128 unarmed protesters, most of them young boys, were killed by the police and CRPF. In support of this belief, people often point to announcements about imposition of or relaxation in curfew were made by Union Home ministry.
National Conference MLC and former minister of state for Home Sajad Kitchloo, however, said the NC-Cong coalition was in command of the situation.
“Yes, there’s too much intervention of New Delhi in the state affairs but our government was supreme. We had no interference and it was I and the CM (Omar Abdullah) who took decisions,” Kitchloo said.
Peoples Democratic Party, which was accused by coalition partner BJP of keeping them in the dark about Alam’s release, said the party is only asserting the authority of the Chief Minister.
“You remember that a central Home ministry official announced relaxation in curfew in the state during 2010. And that too, by speaking to the media. We are trying to change the narrative and it will definitely lead to friction, but we are only asserting the state government’s authority,” said PDP media advisor Nayeema Mehjoor.
“We will release Hurriyat leaders soon if there’s no law and order threat. Also, the youth who have been arrested under Public Safety Act will be released as soon as possible,” she said.