Srinagar: In May 1994, the militant outfit Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) declared a unilateral ceasefire and decided to give up arms and instead work for the peaceful settlement of Kashmir problem. The JKLF founder and the chairman of one of the factions of the outfit, Javed Mir, supported the ceasefire hoping to see the bloodshed in Kashmir end.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, when the militancy in Kashmir has escalated, Mir said that the statement by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who pushed to reach out to militants and describing the armed youths as "sons of the soil" was nothing but a poll gimmick. Many others in Kashmir, including mainstream political parties have denounced Mehbooba for "doing politics on the graves of people". "She (Mehbooba) is just doing the politics, as the elections are in the offing here," Mir said.
In Kashmir, with the elections only a few months away, mainstream political parties have either "displayed soft separatist politics or they have started re-invoking their political agendas to seek votes".
While former chief minister and National Conference president, Farooq Abdullah, has promised autonomy, political experts see Mehbooba's outreach to the militants by visiting the families as part of the "politics to gain lost ground". The PDP's bastion of south Kashmir saw "massive" protests after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, with hundreds being blinded and many being injured through the "indiscriminate" use of pellet guns.
Although the separatists say that the people will continue to "boycott both the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls", some political experts view Mehbooba's move as an effort to "reclaim lost ground" considering the protests against her government and the excesses by the forces were fierce in south Kashmir in 2016. The party has also seen many leaders including former ministers, Haseeb Drabu, Basharat Bukhari and Javed Mustafa Mir leave its ranks.
Noted political expert, Professor Noor Mohammad Baba, said the "PDP was in a difficult situation and the visits by Mehbooba to the families of militants are an attempt by her to reclaim lost ground". He said that the while the "slogans of protection of Kashmir's special status was a common political plank even in the elections that were fought before the militancy started in Kashmir, the sympathy for the families of militants was a new approach ahead of the upcoming polls".
In Kashmir, while political parties promise to "deliver" on the governance front, the political agendas of parties are closely tied to the "resolution of the Kashmir problem". Baba said, "It was a mix of promises to deliver on the governance front as well as the political front that has always formed the basis of electoral process in Kashmir."
While both the National Conference and PDP have advocated the resolution of the Kashmir problem through dialogue, the former sees "restoration of autonomy" as a solution, while the latter sees "self-rule as well as porous borders between India and Pakistan" as "part of the Kashmir settlement".
The political promise became more reinforced in the 1987 elections, when many separatist leaders fought the polls under the banner of the Muslim United Front (MUF). Advocate Zahid Ali, spokesperson of Jamat-e-Islami, who was the candidate of the MUF in Pampore in 1987 said that the elections were heavily rigged. "In 1987, when the armed struggle had not started, we contested elections on MUF tickets. But the polls were heavily rigged. It was the worst fraud committed against the people of Kashmir. We contested the polls on the promise that Islam would form the basis of governance in Kashmir and we will raise the issue of resolution of Kashmir problem in the Assembly," he said.
Zahid said, "Even as people have rejected the electoral process with less than five percent coming to vote in the recent urban local bodies polls, this was being described as the victory of Indian democracy."
Former minister and People’s Democratic Front (PDF) chairman, Hakeem Yaseen, concurred, "The 1987 elections were heavily rigged. They were so badly rigged that even as in our constituency at Khan Saheb where there were only 50,000 voters, the authorities showed that there were 51,000 voters." He added, "While the parties have the right to advocate the resolution of Kashmir problem, they can't hoodwink the people."
"The people of Kashmir are aware of the remarks of Mehbooba that the youths who were protesting were not going to security forces camps to buy toffees and milk. It is her hypocrisy that she is now feeling pained about the condition of the families of militants. It is ironic that now even Abdullah is seeking the appointment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission when Kashmiris have seen excesses during his rule as well," he said.
Founder of the United Jehad Council (UJC), a conglomerate of militant outfits, Azam Inquilabi, said, "The resolution of the Kashmir problem through a political initiative has been missing in Kashmir. There is a need for India and Pakistan to start a dialogue on Kashmir to resolve the Kashmir problem. There is a need for government forces to end the excesses in Kashmir. The pro-India political parties in Kashmir lack sincerity. If they had been sincere, these political parties may have formed a united front to protect the Article 35-A and Article 370."
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Updated Date: Jan 16, 2019 19:43:37 IST