This video emerged as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met with Prime Minister Modi in Delhi while her state spirals south. And even as the opposition calls for her removal and the imposition of President’s Rule, both the BJP and the PDP, in some alternate reality, insist their coalition that stunned the Valley when it was announced in early 2015, is working well. Its backers even today claim it’s out-of-the-box boldness is the only glue to keep the state together. In reality, however, it was a Faustian deal – struck for the sole purpose of assuming power. And its true colours are revealed, for anyone who’s ready to look.
In the chaos, those calling for dialogue to stem the flow of blood are being forced to choose a side, even though there are many more than just two. Beyond issuing the occasional strike calendar, the separatist Hurriyat, many of whose leaders have been under house arrest for extended periods since last July, has been rendered virtually irrelevant, as young boys organize themselves to take on security forces on the streets. Moderate Kashmiri Muslims who align with India have no voice at all. Majoritarian politics on both sides paints them as “traitors”.
Last year, as I travelled in the Valley in the wake of Hizb militant Burhan Wani’s killing, the battle lines were only just being identified. The Valley’s residents (all avid news consumers) were joining dots – the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, the national debate on the beef ban (neither beef nor pork are eaten in the state), violent statements on love jihad, and the creation of sainik colonies in the Valley, to name a few – and creating a larger picture of communal hatred and vigilantism that is targeting Muslims across the country. Since then, the lines have only hardened. Each incident, irrespective of where it takes place, feeds into a growing conviction in the Valley that the BJP-ruled central government is only interested in pushing a communal agenda, and cares only about the land, not the people. That conviction in turn fuels the right-wing narrative that looks at the political dispute over Kashmir purely through a prism of radical Islam and terrorism stoked by Pakistan, nothing more.
While Mehbooba Mufti meets her most unsuitable political partner in Delhi, she must know that her timid silence with the Centre will get her discredited government nowhere. If she is to survive politically at all, it is for her to urge PM Modi to open meaningful dialogue himself with the people of the Valley and wrest the narrative back from those who claim to speak and act on his behalf. In the absence of that initiative, the spiral of violence could continue to spin downward.