Separatists' Acts Trample On Mufti's Agenda Of Peace

11 May 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: At some point of time, it was necessary for Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to spell out the parameters within which his 'battle of ideas' would operate. He has charged separatists with exceeding limits and making his task harder. A simple message is that it is not going to be a free-for-all. Separatists have been told that they will have to stay within decent limits where liberty cannot be a licence to do anything under the sun. It also underscores the point that by 'exceeding the prescribed limits of their physical space', they have weakened his favourite issues of dialogue and reconciliation, phased revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and not stretching the police on the streets to curb protests and spend time 24X7 around the houses of separatists. The realisation that separatists were taking him for granted and waving Pakistani flags happened twice since the return of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, hardline separatist leader, to Srinagar on April 15, but came rather too late in the day. The essence of his themes and the legacy that he wanted to bequeath are under threat. That is what makes it a watershed moment for the two-month-old Mufti government in Jammu and Kashmir. He may call 'his battle of ideas a big challenge before him'. The stark reality is that he has to make a choice, either he continues to play ball with separatists and entertain their themes of secession or he focuses on the issues that concern the public the most. The two cannot go on simultaneously. At the same time, he has to ensure how to bring on track his other political issues with separatists having betrayed his faith. Separatists have obviously not shown any concession to him because they are receiving their directions from across the border and are least interested in the PDP-BJP government's agenda of creating a 'constituency of peace' and an example of good governance in the state. As Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has told a newspaper that 'the Army cannot operate without AFSPA', separatists by creating trouble and militants by going in for grenade explosions and shootouts have given a boost to the Army's claims that the situation from across the border and the hinterland is not conducive for the dilution or removal of the special powers that shield security forces from any legal prosecution for violation of rules. The waving of Pakistani flags and chanting of pro-Pakistan slogans is 'unacceptable' to Mufti and separatists working at the behest of Pakistan are determined to show that they will continue to do so. Apart from the reported facts how Masarat Alam was in touch with Pakistan, each and every move of separatists of all hues is being guided and monitored by Pakistan. This involves two issues. Does Mufti have the mandate to talk to Pakistan? The answer is a categorical no. Can he talk to separatists and take their agenda forward? Again, he has no such mandate. His role, at best, is that of a facilitator. This too has been brought into question by separatists and the Chief Minister knows the answer where things went wrong. The waving of Pakistani flags was something that the people of Kashmir had not seen for many years as the last time those were hoisted was in early 1990s, and then too surreptitiously. These incidents speak of the new mindset that has gained credence among a section of the youth in Kashmir, who are both social media warriors and are willing to risk to be seen with Pakistani flags. In it, there is a manifestation of radicalism arising out of deep frustration and desperation with hope having come to a standstill. Mufti will do better by not straddling on so many issues. Instead, he should focus on what non-separatists in Kashmir want. Let him generate his own ideas rather than selling the ideas of separatists to New Delhi.