The overall democratic situation is very bad in Kashmir. All of Jammu and Kashmir is not in a good position right now. The first responsibility for this is with the BJP because they hold power in Delhi and were part of the alliance government in the state all these two years, two months and two weeks. Till yesterday, we were saying that this is an opportunistic alliance because the BJP and PDP are poles apart but both of them claimed that theirs was a mandate for reconciliation.
The track record of the BJP is what it is—we have all been witnessing it since 2014—but that said, the democratic process is very important. And it is better than Central rule. An elected government’s rule is any day better than Governor’s rule and bureaucratic rule. We have, for this reason, consistently said that in Kashmir the political process should be continuously strengthened through dialogue.
Dialogue itself is only a part of the answer to the political problem that confronts Kashmir. It is essentially political uncertainty that haunts Kashmir. In 2014, there was a huge democratic participation of the people in the Lok Sabha election but what happened thereafter? Why, for the last one year, could elections not be held in South Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seat? This is a question that is still to be answered. What happened in these three years to that democratic upsurge of 2014? Yet let me say that even if the democratic process is flawed, even if it has problems, it is still better than anything else.
Right from day one of this government on April 4, 2016, we have been saying that the alliance partners in Kashmir have nothing in common with each other except sharing power. Both parties’ members have said that this alliance is what the mandate was for. My question is, where has that mandate gone now (given that the government has fallen)? For this, the PDP is equally responsible. They have also brought us to this position, where Jammu and Kashmir have become so far apart from one another as never before. I believe that some contact between the leaders and the people is always better than no contact at all. If there is a choice between the two, we support some contact, even if it is minimal.
In Jammu, there is such tremendous communal polarisation as has never been seen. Was this a result of, if not the kind of, politics being pursued? J&K should not be used as a pawn for the politics played out on the national stage. I have been working in Kashmir and observing the developments and have never seen such strong polarisation between Jammu and Kashmir regions. Jammu is more and more a site for Hindu polarisation, and on an unprecedented scale. If Mufti (Mohammad Sayeed) sahib (Mehbooba’s predecessor and father) had been alive, he would have seen this deepening animosity between Jammu and Kashmir…
This alliance was not the last opportunity to improve the political situation in Kashmir. Opportunities have come earlier too, but this development (of the BJP-PDP government falling) is a setback to an already difficult situation. Opportunities come, but if they are not used, then such crises situations arise. They should have thought it over carefully, before taking this step. They should have considered what is good for the country, what is good for Kashmir, but they did not.
It is difficult to say what lies in the future. Certainly it will compound the crisis in Kashmir. What, after all, is the meaning of ‘Central rule’? We must understand that the Centre is nothing but bureaucracy plus security apparatus. We can only suggest that they should continue the efforts for peace. Only this will resolve the crisis in Kashmir. It should be the people’s good that matters—people’s good with dignity. Kashmir should not have been used for partisan interests. It seems that this is exactly what has happened.
(As told to Pragya Singh)