When someone is insulted too much, and yet that person refuses to have any sense of humiliation, Kashmiris often use a famous local parable to describe them. It goes like this: Once a person from Kashmir’s Pir community was thoroughly insulted by a villager before getting dragged for saying something the villagers didn’t approve of. Few days later, someone asked him: “Pir Sahab, I heard that you have been dragged by someone?” Without any sense of shame, the Pir replied in the affirmative, but with an amusing slant: “Yes, but the surface that I was dragged on had green grass (Neej).”
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Over the past two years, I have heard many people using the same parable to describe how the BJP has treated its coalition partner PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, ever since the two political parties formed the coalition government on 1 March 2015, after wording an Agenda of Alliance, which has practically remained non-existent so far. For example, it talked about holding a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan, which never took off.
Promises Made by PDP
After it won the 2002 Assembly elections soon after its formation in 1999, the PDP had succeeded in projecting itself as a party which cared about the dignity of Kashmiris, who were thoroughly disappointed by the National Conference for years. The National Conference had particularly evoked indignation and frustration among people in Kashmir when it silently accepted the rejection of its report for Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomy. This further reinforced the notion in the Valley that the NC was acting as a mere rubber stamp of New Delhi in Kashmir.
In PDP, the Kashmiris had thought that they got a polar opposite of National Conference, especially after PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed implemented his healing touch policy in Kashmir to a greater extent and made peace with dignity in Kashmir and New Delhi’s reconciliation with Pakistan his pet projects. But all those hopes have been dashed, thanks to the PDP’s repeated surrenders to the BJP or New Delhi after it entered into an alliance with the BJP.
Beginning from a public snub to Mehbooba’s father and then J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in a joint public meeting in Srinagar – when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with an indirect reference to Mufti, said that he didn’t need “anybody’s advice” on Kashmir – to a series of veiled and overt insults to PDP, the coalition of these two parties is touching new lows almost everyday.
Last week, a renowned Kashmiri academic, while discussing the repeated ill-treatment of the PDP at the hands of the BJP, and the overall functioning of the alliance with me, quoted this line of Mir Taqi Mir’s famous couplet: “Es Aasqee Mian Ezate Sadaat Bi Gaiee (In this love, even the dignity of a noble got compromised).”
The by-election on 9 April for Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency, which sparked a new wave of protests and incidents of human rights violations, after resulting in an abysmal voter turnout and killing of eight people, has churned out a barrage of political statements from BJP leaders, which have multiplied the ruling PDP’s troubles in the Valley.
The latest statement came from BJP’s Chandra Prakash Ganga, who is a cabinet minister in Jammu & Kashmir government. While referring to those who support Pakistan and those who pelt stones in the Valley, the minister said in a video statement, which went viral:
These people are anti-national and they deserve only one treatment: Bullets. If not bullets, then they should be given the punishment which you saw in a video that has gone viral recently. In that video, didn’t you see those stone-pelters raising slogans against Pakistan when they received thrashing with sticks? This should be the punishment for anti-national elements.
Prakash’s statement is in sharp contrast with the PDP’s original slogan coined by Mehbooba’s late father: “Na Bandook Se Na Goli Se, Baat Banay Gi Boli Se (Not with guns or bullets, we can only resolve issues through dialogue).” Late Mufti had coined this slogan in support of dialogue with the separatists and Pakistan.
Before Paraksh, BJP’s General Secretary Ram Madhav said that “everything is fair in love and war” while referring to the incident of using a Kashmiri as human shield in Kashmir’s Budgam. This statement is not only a problem for Mehbooba Mufti and her PDP – because it means political approval for the army’s oppressive actions in Kashmir – but also because Mehbooba herself has earlier accused the army of using civilians as human shields in Kashmir.
A day before that, senior BJP leader Subramanian Swami said that the troubles of Kashmir can be treated only if Kashmir is de-populated, and all Kashmiris are sent to refugee camps in Tamil Nadu.
All these statements have been summed up in this cartoon by Kashmiri cartoonist Suhail Naqshbandi, with an oblique reference to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s oft-repeated assertion what her party and its patron, late Mufti Sayeed, have dreamt about Kashmir.
PDP’s Pivot! Where is That?
The pivot of PDP’s philosophy, which projected it as a lesser evil, was its doctrine of a healing touch. The party sought an end to human rights violations, end of the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and withdrawal of security forces from civilian areas.
By placating Pakistan and separatists with his calls for peaceful resolution of Kashmir through talks, the PDP’s deceased patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed came to be known as a statesman of sorts.
The lesser-evil tag for the party had originated from Mehbooba Mufti’s distinctive style of politics in her early political career when she started sympathising with those who used to get killed by security forces. She ventured to do it just around the time when the flamboyant president of National Conference and then chief minister Farooq Abdullah had once infamously remarked that there was no need of filling the jails with militants; they should rather be killed and that Pakistan should be bombarded for what it was doing to Kashmir.
But, now the PDP has lost all the goodwill it had earned by highlighting human rights violations in Kashmir and advocating dialogue for resolving the Kashmir issue.
These days, common gossip and most of the posts on social media in Kashmir are about ridiculing the ruling party and its ally, the BJP.
Be it CM Mehbooba Mufti’s frequently repeated assertions about her father’s dream for Kashmir, or her statements like “those [who got] killed, had not gone to buy toffee or milk” and “only 5 percent people in Kashmir are interested in protests or stone-pelting”, each of them have been responded with loads of ridicule.
At the end of the day, the truth is that whatever is happening on ground in Kashmir or through political statements, all appears to be widening the gap between the PDP and the BJP – an alliance which looks doomed!
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)