With Bharatiya Janata Party withdrawing support to the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir government nearly two-and-a-half years ahead of the end of its term, the PDP not only failed to implement the Agenda of Alliance (AoA), a common minimum programme, but also faced criticism for the use of excessive force to control "pro-freedom" protests.
After the 2016 uprising following the killing of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, over 76 were killed and thousands injured in areas of south Kashmir from where most PDP MLAs were elected. However, after violence erupted during polling for the Srinagar parliamentary seat last April, elections to the Anantnag seat — from where Mehbooba's brother and outgoing tourism minister Tasaduq Mufti was to contest polls — was cancelled.
Of the 28 MLAs the PDP has in the Assembly, 11 are from south Kashmir (including the now separatist bastions of Tral, Shopian and Pulwama). While the PDP has lost ground in south Kashmir, the party has also not been able to implement most of the promises in the AoA. A key promise of the AoA: The Kashmir government would take steps to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is seen to be draconian in nature as it “gives the forces powers to kill the people on mere suspicion.”
It was noted in the AoA, that “while both parties (PDP and BJP) have historically held a different view on the AFSPA and the need for it in the state at present, as part of the agenda for governance of this alliance, the coalition government will examine the need for denotifying disturbed areas. This, as a consequence, would enable the Union government to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in these areas.”
Before former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took his oath of office, the AoA promised that talks would be initiated with the separatists in Kashmir. However, even as New Delhi appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, separatists said the assertions that Sharma was “coming to restore peace rather than addressing the dispute or its resolution... limits the scope of any engagement with him and makes it an exercise in futility.”
The separatists contended that the New Delhi was not serious about talks for which Jammu and Kashmir should have been recognised as a disputed territory. Though home minister Rajnath Singh recently said the Government of India was ready for talks with the separatists “no direct invitation was extended to them.”
In the AoA, it was specified that on the lines of NDA government led by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a dialogue process will be “initiated with all political groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, in the spirit of insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur hamhooriyat (humanity and democracy)”. Not much happened on the development front either. The Government of India has not handed over the Dulhasti and Uri hydropower projects to Jammu and Kashmir, as it promised in lieu of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation's water resources.
The PDP and BJP jointly formed the government after the 2014 elections in which both National Conference and Congress received a drubbing. The three-and-half-years of the PDP-BJP rule was marked by differences on a range of issues. They even differed on the non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) as the BJP called for withdrawing it and the PDP looked to extend it.
Differences also came to the fore after some from the right-wing demanded a CBI inquiry into the rape and murder of a Kathua girl. That led to the expulsion of two BJP ministers — Chaudhary Lal Singh, and Chander Prakash Ganga — from the council of ministers. There were also disagreements about settling Kashmiri Pandits in Valley and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.
However, at the press conference addressed by Mehbooba after the withdrawal of support, she said her government took many steps towards peace in Kashmir. She added that besides withdrawing “cases against 11,000 youth” NICO was also declared while Rajnath extended the offer of talks to separatists. PDP’s Zadibal MLA Abid Ansari said the party has been able to fulfil some points in the AoA. “Article 370 has stayed intact and even prime minister Narendra Modi visited Pakistan to offer talks. We also withdrew cases of stone-pelting against thousands of youth,” Ansari said.
Even as some PDP leaders accused “BJP of betraying them” by prematurely withdrawing support, BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said the party had “no option but to withdraw the support to the PDP as Mehbooba had been soft on stone-pelting youth.” He said that as chief minister, Mehbooba was “unable to control the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the party can’t allow the spilling of the blood of innocent Indians in Kashmir.”
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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 22:09 PM