Kashmir stalemate: Mehbooba Mufti busy saving alliance with BJP as top PDP leaders want her out
Ever since the video of a Kashmiri man, who was tied to the front of a jeep by the Indian Army, went viral, fitful protests are back to haunt the Kashmir Valley.
Ever since the video of a Kashmiri man, who was allegedly tied to the front of a jeep by the Indian Army, went viral, fitful protests have been haunting the Kashmir Valley. The incident brought back the horrors of the time when Kashmir was reeling under protests over Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's killing in July last year.
Apart from the spate of protests, the incident has also brought political crisis back to the state, at a time when senior leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aren't entirely satisfied with the way chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is running the state.
The video was reportedly shot in the Beerwah area of Budgam district, where miscreants disrupted polling during Sunday's bypoll to Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. The video has been shared widely on social media in Kashmir, and is drawing condemnation.
In the clip, an army soldier could be heard saying, "Those who throw stones will meet the same fate."
The video shows the jeep moving ahead of an army patrol, while some villagers could be overheard that the youth had been picked up by the army.
The incident, coupled with fervent protests across the Valley, unleashed a second round of political instability in the state, especially with senior BJP leaders also speaking in favour of the Indian Army.
BJP national general secretary and the party's in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, justified the controversial video. "I compliment the major for not allowing both these things to happen… If I were to blame anybody for that scenario, it would be those responsible for failing to send reinforcements when the situation was critical and it was informed to the seniors." Madhav told CNN-News18.
As protests raged, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti turned to ally BJP, and reached New Delhi to meet the central government's top three — Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah — to discuss future course of action. On 24 April, Mufti (before meeting the top BJP leadership) invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and suggested "talks with all shareholders" is the only way to "move forward". The suggestion was rebuffed by the BJP leadership.
According to The Indian Express, Mufti's suggestion has not only threatened the BJP-PDP alliance, there is also a rebellion within her own party.
Ever since she became chief minister in March 2016, Mufti's tenure has been marred by vicious protests and political instability.
Mufti met Modi in New Delhi earlier this week to review the worsening security situation, as speculations gained momentum about the possibility of Governor's Rule in the state amid allegations that the PDP-BJP coalition has failed to control law and order in the Valley. "We had talks during Vajpayee regime. We need to move forward from where Atalji had left. Until then, there is no chance of the situation improving," Mufti said, responding to reporters over possibility of talks with Hurriyat leaders.
"We need dialogue. We can't be confronting our own people for too long. We cannot hold talks when stones are being thrown from one side, and bullets are fired from the other," she said. Mufti added that Modi has vowed to work on Vajpayee's lines, whose policy was of reconciliation and not confrontation. "Modiji has an intention of holding talks but before that a conducive atmosphere needs to be created," she told reporters after the meeting the prime minister at his 7 Lok Kalyan Marg residence. "Everything is possible if the atmosphere is conducive, and there is no way forward without talks."
The PDP chief said that after Vajpayee's initiatives, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was reopened, talks began with the Hurriyat and ceasefire on the Line of Control came into force. "Something happened while Atalji was there. That is the reason why the people of Kashmir still remember Atalji. Due to this policy, there is an alliance between BJP and PDP," she said.
Rising tensions between the coalition partners over the handling of the security situation in Kashmir also came up at the meeting. The coalition came under strain when the PDP lost one seat in the recently held MLC polls, when an independent MLA voted in favour of BJP candidate Vikram Randhawa, leading to his victory. "Whatever happened should not have taken place. But this is an internal matter and we will resolve it with the BJP," she said.
The BJP has also denied any rift in the coalition and assured the Mehbooba Mufti-led government of its continued support. "There is no rift in the BJP-PDP alliance," Madhav told reporters.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a PDP leader said the current situation in Kashmir will only impact the PDP. "The BJP isn’t affected. In fact, they want harsher measures to control the situation because that suits them politically," the leader said, adding "we are in serious trouble".
Top PDP leaders also believe the situation has deteriorated because of the alliance with BJP, although there are some who feel "hobnobbing" with the BJP to break the party but continue with the alliance. According to the sources, "the old guard (of the PDP) feel peeved because they feel a few youngsters are running the party".
Kashmir has been rocked by massive street protests in recent months, especially after eight people were killed during an assembly election bypoll in Srinagar that saw the lowest turnout in decades.
Several PDP leaders have expressed fear that their base in Kashmir is fast eroding because of the party’s alliance with BJP and its stance on the protests. The attack on the PDP leader came on the day fresh clashes broke out between protesters and security forces at SP College in Srinagar, police said. No casualties were reported in the incident.
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