From COVID-19 to political vacuum, much has changed in J&K during Mehbooba Mufti's absence
The test that lies ahead of the Abdullahs and Mehbooba is the restoration of normalcy by taking tough steps in the face of the possibility of a lone political battle, a defeated and fragmented regional front and a wary electorate
In the first major electoral exercise following the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation, the election results were a surprise as Independents won in 217 of the 307 blocks, while the saffron party was victorious in 81 blocks.
Harsh Dev Singh of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party said, "These elections seem like a formality. This is to just to show that elections are being held in the Valley."
Citing the “murder of democracy”, activist-turned-politician Shehla Rashid quit the Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement. State BJP chief Ravinder Raina, however, said there was no “political vacuum in Kashmir”.
In extending the house arrest of Mehbooba, who was termed a “soft separatist” and also putting Sajad Lone in detention, the BJP turned its backs on those local leaders that could have served as their entry point into the region dominated for decades by local parties.
BJP workers come under attack
Turmoil ensued this year as at least five BJP workers were killed by militants in July-August. BJP leader Wasim Bari, his brother Umar Bashir and father Bashir Ahmed were shot outside their shop in Bandipora in July, followed by the deaths of BJP workers in Budgam and Qazigund districts the next month.
A wave of fear ran among the party's ground workers, triggering at least 17 resignations within a month, leading to around 25 members getting police security, according to Economic Times.
An attempt was also made on the life of BJP leader Ghulam Qadir at his residence in Ganderbal in the district's Nunar area, however, the leader was saved even as his personal security officer was killed in a shooutout with a militant.
There are also reports that elections to panchayat posts will be held soon.
Amid the crisis that the state BJP unit faces in Jammu and Kashmir came the Gupkar Declaration 2.0, calling the revocation of special status and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir a “spitefully, short-sighted and unconstitutional move".
Fearing fresh detentions and reprisal from the government, the signatories moved swiftly to issue the declaration, a commitment from which withdrawal of any party has become near to impossible, according to The Print.
The signatories of the Declaration, including Mehbooba, are to meet on Thursday.
My father & I called on @MehboobaMufti Sahiba this afternoon to enquire about her well-being after her release from detention. She has kindly accepted Farooq Sb’s invitation to join a meeting of the Gupkar Declaration signatories tomorrow afternoon. pic.twitter.com/MR9IQPFW2T
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 14, 2020
The strain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to make matters worse for the political environment in the state, which sees a lockdown that could be considered an extension of the one started in August.
“There are no tourists here, economy is down the drain, and there is no political activity. Just having shops open and cars moving does not mean anything is normal. Kashmiris are being humiliated again and again,” Imran Nabi Dar, a politician from National Conference, told Al Jazeera.
Ali said that the political narrative will have to go beyond Article 370. “People are tired of the status quo here and if they (the leaders) come together, there may emerge a consensus of common development, which will include boosting the tourism economy, investment in infrastructure and jobs," he said.
With inputs from agencies
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