PDP’s ‘battle of ideas’ becomes surrender of ideas

Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s much-touted “battle of ideas” is gradually falling apart with the re-arrest of pro-freedom leader Masrat Alam within a month of his release after four years of incarceration.
Before and after taking over as chief minister of the state for the second time, Mufti has been repeatedly quoted by the media as saying that the resistance leadership has to be engaged in a “battle of ideas” and “dialogue, not bullets” should be the way.
He and his party colleagues talked of release of political prisoners (read resistance leaders) and giving up the policy of arrests and heavy-fisted approach toward the activities of the Azadi camp.
In fact, the party talked hundreds of youth, who had been booked for stone pelting, into voting on the promise that it will withdraw cases against them if voted to power.
Mufti’s political opponents and Kashmir watchers say that all that talk has come to a nought and he has meekly surrendered before New Delhi.
“Now who is taking dictation from the Centre?” asked NC provincial president Nasir Sogami, referring to the days when his party would be under fire from PDP for “taking dictations from the Central government” on issues ranging from arrest of Hurriyat leaders to announcing relaxation in curfew.
“The PDP is being dictated to file FIRs against dissenters. In fact, they are being told the exact nature of charges to be filed. They had promised that they would change Kashmir. Now everything stands clear before the people. They are acting like obedient employees,” he added
“PDP now stands politically exposed before people,” Sogami said, adding, “Before elections they wanted people to keep BJP at bay. After elections they joined them to rule Kashmir. Now who wanted to grab power?”
In opposition, Mufti often accused the NC-Congress coalition of maligning the Indian democracy and constitutional system by depriving people of the state their liberty and fundamental rights.
In the recent incident involving killing of a Tral youth, the guarded reaction of Mufti came under strict criticism when he stated that army should have been more “cautious”.
The Tral incident event was followed by several other developments, which dented PDP’s “battle of ideas” policy.
Besides arresting Alam, the government put ailing, 85-year-old Syed Ali Geelani and his Hurriyat (G) another leader of the conglomerate Peer Saifullah under house arrest. The Mufti-led government used to the same tactics his predecessor used to crack down on pro-freedom groups’ political activities. He didn’t allow a march to Tral.
“That democratic space seems to be choked now. The coalition partners are killing Kashmiris. It is now public that PDP was pushed by home minister Rajnath Singh to file an FIR against Masrat Alam. They are also driven by fascist media on sensitive political issues,” Awami Itehad Party chief Engineer Rasheed said.
“PDP has forgotten its slogan of battle of ideas. They have surrendered before BJP on petty issues for power. There is nothing which they can own and all they are acting on directions which flow from Delhi. The rulers ruling Kashmir are rubber stamps,” he said.
Rashid said Mufti was too anxious to cling to power and he compromised on the party’s never-fully-explained policy of “self-rule”.
The “reconciliatory” tone of Mufti’s PDP with political dissenters, often dubbed as ‘soft separatism’, failed the first litmus test by doing little to punish the policemen responsible for shooting dead a youth in Palhallan in February this year.
The PDP termed the incident “inhumane and barbaric”, but asked the troops and police to be cautious and humane. Despite a magisterial inquiry, which indicted members of the police, nobody has been punished.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, political commentator and former head of political science department at Kashmir University, said Mufti climbed down from his “battle of ideas” when he entered into a coalition with BJP.
“He took a moral high ground and tried to experiment with ideas. But the political atmosphere within India would not allow that. The right atmosphere and accommodation from Delhi is not available,” he said.
“In 2002, he capitalised on the India and Pakistan peace process and sold it to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. That time his policy was in line with that of the Centre. This time he has no leverage with New Delhi. BJP is more powerful in Delhi and in the state,” he said.
Baba said Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s post is the weakest in India due to gradual erosion of the state’s autonomy which given Delhi a bigger say in political and security matters.
“I don’t think Mufti’s policy will work this time. He is facing a tough coalition partner who is not accommodative,” he said.