As Mehbooba Mufti eyes Lok Sabha berth, Anantnag voters question her previous stances on Article 35A, stone-pelting

The government led by Mehbooba Mufti had maintained silence over the Article 35A issue when cases were filed against it in the Supreme Court.

Sameer Yasir April 19, 2019 20:32:23 IST
As Mehbooba Mufti eyes Lok Sabha berth, Anantnag voters question her previous stances on Article 35A, stone-pelting
  • Mehbooba Mufti, whose tenure saw Kashmir plunging into chaos, is now rebranding herself, especially on Twitter.

  • However, she is only resorting to old tactics: emotional appeals, invoking her late father’s legacy and her 'helplessness' as the BJP’s alliance partner

  • The PDP chief is now Delhi’s vocal opponent in Kashmir.

  • In the context of her stances during the PDP-BJP government's tenure, Mufti's present stance now intrigues many.

There’s a growing belief in Srinagar circles that former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose tenure saw Kashmir plunging into chaos, is now rebranding herself, especially on Twitter.

However, Mufti, in her new avatar, is only resorting to old tactics: emotional appeals, invoking her late father’s legacy and her “helplessness” as the BJP’s alliance partner. This is how the two-time member of Parliament from Anantnag is now eyeing another Lok Sabha berth.

However, Mufti's present activism, after having lost power, is in contrast to her public positions in the past.

But then, as they say, in Kashmir, even the staunchest pro-India politicians tend to behave like separatists in Opposition. Mufti is a classic case, keeping in mind her recent flip-flops.

The PDP chief is now Delhi’s vocal opponent in Kashmir. She endorses the Vajpayee-era confidence-building measures, including dialogue with separatists and Pakistan, although she couldn’t even implement her own Agenda of Alliance as the BJP’s ally. In poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir, however, her growing critique of the “anti-Kashmir” policies of Narendra Modi and the BJP is now determining much of her profile.

As Mehbooba Mufti eyes Lok Sabha berth Anantnag voters question her previous stances on Article 35A stonepelting

Mehbooba Mufti flashes a victory sign while on her way to file her nomination papers at Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir. Image credit Sameer Yasir

“The vintage Mufti mannerism is on display in Kashmir as of now,” said Aijaz Ahmad, a political commentator based in Srinagar, who has observed the advent of Mufti since 1996. He further said, "She has been doing it throughout her career. Her party was in alliance with the Congress in 2008, when peaceful protesters were first fired upon. Later, she sought justice for victims' families when her opponent repeated the script in 2010. Her mishandling and sheer arrogance created mayhem in Kashmir in 2016, when the forces she commanded ran amok to kill, maim and blind Kashmiris.”

In this context, Mufti's present stance now intrigues many.

Her government, especially PDP ministers and party members, had maintained silence over the Article 35A issue, when cases were filed against it in the Supreme Court. Her detractors termed her conduct as part of a "conspiracy." But now, she’s vocal about the issue, even telling Delhi that any tinkering with the Article will render the Accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India as “null and void”.

Her role reversal, however, doesn’t end there.

Recently, after people pelted stones on her motorcade during campaigning in her hometown of south Kashmir, she invoked her father’s “legacy” to placate people in her constituency.

Shaheen Bhat, a businessperson based in Anantnag, said, “What she conveniently forgot to mention during that recent rally was how she once derided us when her forces were showering bullets and pellets on our kids. She mocked our martyrs with her cheap remarks in which she asked if children went to army camps to 'buy toffees'. Did she expect a hero's welcome? War criminals like her have no place in Kashmir now.”

Mufti had subsequently apologised for her remarks. However, given the public anger and New Delhi's muscular policy on Kashmir, her out-of-power activism is hardly making any difference.

A Jama'at-e-Islami supporter said, “She always used Jama’at-e-Islami cadres for her politics. However, it was her party’s senior leader Muzaffar Baig who first endorsed a ban on the organisation in 2016. She would deride Jama’at members and supporters as people whom she ‘rescued from STF’s (Jammu and Kashmir Police’s ruthless counter-insurgency force) knives’ during the nineties. And now, she’s rooting for Jama’at, once again, when her long elusive dream of banning the outfit has already been fulfilled by Delhi. What hypocrisy is this!”

Further, Mufti's recent claim that security forces use chemicals at encounter sites to mutilate militants' bodies led many to recall the death of top militant Majid Zargar.

After Zargar was killed in an encounter during Mufti's tenure in December 2016, only a few charred body parts were retrieved from the site.

“Wasn’t Mufti at the helm when the forces, probably for the first time, started mutilating militants’ bodies in Kashmir?” asked a south Kashmir-based activist. “Why is she creating a hue and cry over something which took shape during her tenure?”

Questions like these are now making Mufti’s new avatar a subject of scrutiny in Kashmir.

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