After 30 years, Pakistan has found a new trump card in Kashmir. More powerful than the Hurriyat or the terrorists put together. Powerful not because she has any personal ability or public support.
The trump card is powerful because the person in question is the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. She is the daughter of a former chief minister, who had also been India’s Home Minister. With these credentials, the appeal that Mehbooba Mufti carries nationally and internationally is immense. Her rants can be diplomatically and politically disastrous for the Indian state. Mehbooba Mufti knows it. She is milking it. Where Mehbooba Mufti is concerned, the weakness of the state is this: Because she’s a former CM, the daughter of a former CM and Home Minister, it shall be difficult for the Indian state to call her bluff on what she has become – a Pakistan agent.
Mehbooba Mufti is the new Geelani. It took a while for this truth to hit most people. Because of her credentials, what she says shall be given space by the national and international media. It is happening already. This makes Madam Mufti the most compelling and most effective investment for Pakistan in Kashmir.
Pakistan Abandoned Hurriyat Two Years Ago
Pakistan abandoned Hurriyat two years ago. After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Hurriyat leadership became obsolete and lost all utility for Pakistan. Keen observers of Kashmir dynamics observed that in these two years, no statement regarding the Hurriyat leadership has emerged from Pakistan. With zero significance, Hurriyat has dropped from Kashmir’s mind-space.
Enter Mehbooba Mufti – the new Geelani. She is currently Pakistan’s best bet in India. Compare her utility with the utility of the Hurriyat Conference when it first entered the scene. In the 1990s, the utility of the Hurriyat Conference was that it had fought elections under the Constitution of India. The team that comprised of wannabe legislators was now rejecting the system that they were part of. This gave them credibility and weight.
This is always a dangerous proposition for the state. It is much simpler if radical and fringe players discredit the authority of the state. They do not carry any moral authority. But if the state is challenged by the elements that had been part of it, the authority of the state is impacted. The challenge of such elements carries more weight.
Pakistan Finds New Mascot In Mehbooba, GOI In Fix
After 30 years, Pakistan has found a new figure in Kashmir to serve its interests. By co-opting Mehbooba, Pakistan has hit the jackpot.
With this new alignment of Mehbooba Mufti with Pakistan, the government is in a fix. Mehbooba’s agitational rants move into the space of sedition. Despite her regular transgressions, Mehbooba firmly occupies the democratic space. This is the reason why her outrageous comments are brushed aside by the media as democratic dissent and tolerated by the state. Despite her seditious conduct, the state may find it difficult to jail Mehbooba or restrict her. As a former CM, her credibility is much higher, and so is her nuisance value.
It is because of her political stature that all the Hurriyat leaders put together are no match for Mehbooba. She can prove more fatal for the state than Hurriyat or terrorists. Currently, Mehbooba does not enjoy any public support in Kashmir. The only support she can bank upon are the fringe elements of Jamaat e Islami. Her former political stature gives her a national and international appeal. That carries the potential to damage Indian interest diplomatically and politically.
Nobody is Calling Mehbooba’s Bluff
Because she is Mehbooba Mufti, the national media is willy nilly giving space to her rants. Nobody is calling her bluff. Nobody is telling Madam Mufti that Kashmir is changing rapidly. The swift deterioration in Afghanistan has made a sizable section of Kashmiris apprehensive. Kashmir is not defined by a regressive socio-religious code that the Taliban want to impose in Afghanistan. Kashmiris don’t want to create the Afghanistan reality here.
Mehbooba Arm-Twisting The StateThe position of the Indian state has been that the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was an attempt to correct the political discourse in Kashmir. It was never meant to replace the political actors. The Indian state has consistently taken the position that given the democratic system, there is no intention to squeeze the space of the old political horses. They have a right to do politics. The state may differ with them. That does not mean that the state will impose permanent restrictions on themWith her rants and irresponsible diatribe, Mehbooba seems to be abusing democratic space and freedom.
DISSENT? OR SEDITION?
Srinagar, August 22
Asking the Centre to learn a lesson from the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday sounded a warning to New Delhi and said that if the people of J&K “lose patience, you will not remain — you will (also) disappear”. Mufti was addressing a public rally in south Kashmir’s Kulgam during a rare public outreach by mainstream political leaders in the Valley since the abrogation of J&K’s special status and downgrading of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019.
“Patience needs courage. What people of Jammu and Kashmir are enduring…the day they lose patience, you also will not remain — you will disappear,” Mufti said. “I am telling you again and again: don’t test our patience; understand and correct (yourself).” Mufti urged the Centre to take lessons from the Taliban capture of Afghanistan and resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue. “Understand what is happening in the neighbourhood…. Such a big power — America — had to fold their beds and return,” she said. “You (the Centre) still have an opportunity. The way (former PM Atal Bihari) Vajpayee-ji started a dialogue — with outside (Pakistan) and here (in J&K) — you also (should) start a dialogue.”Referring to the abrogation of special status and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into UTs, Mufti said, “What you have robbed us of illegally and unconstitutionally — the identity of J&K — that you have distorted, and the pieces that you did to J&K….correct this mistake, or else it would be too late,” she said. The PDP chief accused the BJP-led Centre of misusing central agencies such as the NIA, CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to crush dissent and political opponents. Warning of communal polarisation, she said that if the BJP doesn’t mend its ways, India would break into many parts on communal and religious lines.