All Kashmir-based unionist parties have described August 5th, 2019, as a black day and the unilateral actions by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as unconstitutional and a murder of democracy.
New Delhi scrapped the statehood of J&K without even an iota of consultation and dialogue with its trusted assets in Kashmir. Post August 5, the status of J&K was reduced to that of a municipality, where the legislature, if ever elected, would have no powers as compared to the pre-5th August position. The mainstream parties were considered torch bearers of democracy by the central government until then. New Delhi forgot all the contributions made by them for the Indian State right from 1947 when Sheikh Abdullah of the National Conference played a crucial role in the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, despite the Hindu ruler’s inclination to remain independent.
Soon, Sheikh Abdullah became the first Prime Minister of J&K. The illusion of equality with the Indian State ended very quickly when he was dismissed from his position. Post his dismissal, his party National Conference actively participated in the Plebiscite movement to demand a plebiscite in Jammu Kashmir. It settled for much less when the Indira-Sheikh accord was signed, putting all ideas of plebiscite at rest. Article 370 was now shown to the Kashmiri people. However, the “Lion of Kashmir” lost his reputation. The local population began to consider him as someone who betrayed his people to stay in power.
The Peoples Democratic Party founder Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was no different. The party fought the 2014 assembly elections by attacking BJP, particularly its Hindutva agenda and anti-Muslim policies. Soon, though, the people saw the two parties sharing the same bed and forming an alliance. The 2014 assembly elections saw good participation of people in the polls, mainly to prevent the BJP from making any inroads in Kashmir. The people trusted the PDP because of its anti-BJP rhetoric. However, the party did not honour the trust of the people. When Mufti Muhammad Sayeed passed away, the Indian Prime Minister did not bother to even attend his funeral, which otherwise was the protocol. Also, very few local people participated in the funeral prayers, which made the public anger quite visible.
Despite this, his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, went ahead to form the government with the BJP. This time the self-rule ideology was put to the funeral, and the so-called agenda of the alliance was made a substitute for self-rule.
All through recent history, the local population of Kashmir has seen the mainstream parties as clerks of New Delhi whose only job is to uphold the writ of the centre. This has cut these parties off from the local masses. Public uprisings have pushed senior leaders of these two parties into the security zone of Gupkar Road.
Despite all these compromises and bargains, the central government did not consider their sacrifices for the Indian state and detained all of them at their home or put them in jails on 5th August 2019. The list included three former chief ministers of the erstwhile state.
This time, the Indian prime minister has invited them for an all-party meet in Delhi. The intelligent political analysts working in the Prime Minister’s Office know that these leaders in the past have fallen to small baits thrown at them. This time apparently, Delhi is ready with the big bone of “statehood”. Now the question is whether they jump at it as they have done in the past or represent people’s aspirations in the face of the Prime Minister.
The writer is an Advocate at J&K High Court. [email protected]