Releasing prisoners on the occasion of Eid has been a precedent in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Coalition compulsions forced the chief minister to shelve the release of political prisoners for the time being. Earlier the release of Masrat Alam created a hue and cry across India and the state government succumbed. Within forty days Masrat was rearrested and put in prison. To appease the RSS camp the state government violated Supreme Court directions on Masrat’s detention. Mufti Sayeed’s coalition partner caused him much embarrassment by abstaining from the July 13 Martyr Day function. By now it has become clear that the PDP has been making all the compromises and thereby eroding its credibility and, of course, the vote bank, especially in Kashmir. Now is the time when Mufti must assert and take decisions that can restore some credibility of his party.
Mufti can send a strong message by withdrawing cases against youths booked for stone-pelting. Before elections the PDP spokesperson, Naeem Akhter had promised withdrawal of such cases if voted to power. This promise lured many youths to go to the polling booths and some even became polling agents of the PDP. There is no denying the fact that the government will have to do a lot of explaining especially in the scenario that emerged after Masrat’s release, but this is the least Mufti can do before the government succumbs to coalition pressures. Withdrawing cases against stone-pelters can earn it a lot of goodwill in Kashmir. The PDP must tell the right wing Hindu party, BJP, to cooperate in withdrawing cases against stone-pelters. If it does not happen, then the PDP must remain in its shoes. Withdrawing cases against stone-pelters can facilitate release of those who are behind the bars. In addition the release of prisoners must also be undertaken now. The change of government has made no difference so far.
The pro-azadi leaders remained under house arrest during the previous regime and they continue to remain so in their respective houses in this regime. This government also imposes restrictions every now and then. The PDP used to take the previous regime to task for continued house detention of Syed Ali Geelani and imposition of restrictions on people. The PDP had promised a change and it must be visible on the ground. Eid is round the corner and it is an opportunity for Mufti to show that the PDP has not compromised its conscience for power.