Will Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Pass Human Rights Test In Jammu And Kashmir?

24 February 2015
DNA
Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

Srinagar: As Mufti Mohammad Sayeed begins his second innings as chief minister, human rights will be the single biggest issue that will test the durability of People's Democratic Party-BJP alliance in the restive Jammu and Kashmir. This because the PDP has built a political fortune by championing the rights cause in the Kashmir valley. In the hay days, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti missed no chance to visit and sympathise with the rights victims in an apparent bid to earn goodwill for the party. It paid off in 2002 when the party dislodged National Conference (NC) from power by aligning with the Congress at a time when the NDA led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee ruled at the centre. Human rights abuse was the single biggest reason that dented the prospects of NC in the 2014 elections. The 2010 summer agitation in which more than a 120 people, mostly youth were killed at the hands of security forces, is widely believed to have trumped NC in assembly elections. Civilian killings at the hands of security forces would not only test the resolve of the PDP but also strain its relations with the Kashmiris that form its core constituency. It is for the same reason the party was lobbying hard with the BJP to soften its stand on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). 'From 2002 2005, (when Mufti was chief minister) that was as bad as any other period as far as human rights issue is concerned despite his rhetoric of zero tolerance and healing touch. I don't think as a human rights organisation we have any expectation from Mufti given what he stood for as the union home minister and chief minister', Khurram Parvez, coordinator J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), told dna. What however will be the challenge for Mufti is to address the alienation of the youth in the state particularly those of the valley. NC lost five of the eight assembly seats in Srinagar city because of the atrocities unleashed on the youth. Thousands of youth were booked for stone pelting, non-lethal weapons like pepper guns proved lethal creating lot of anger resulting in the historic defeat of the NC in its pocket borough. 'Human rights became the issue in elections. Mufti has to deliver on human rights. He will have the pressure because today's youth is well aware,' said Khurram. PDP, however, is confident of achieving what NC could not as far improving the rights record in Jammu and Kashmir. 'This is not power sharing agreement (between PDP and BJP) but an agenda for taking J&K out of the political uncertainty and turmoil. We see this as best opportunity for removing the trust deficit between the state and rest of the country. We will certainly provide the institutional protection to the people in J&K as is available to the citizens of the rest of the country,' Naeem Akthar, chief spokesman of PDP, told dna.