You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus once said by the Great Mark Twain. That is clearly evident from the recent episode that shook the entire nation when the Chief Minister of Kashmir ordered the release of separatist leader, a Hurriyat hardliner Masarat Alam, in the pretext of tagging him a political prisoner. BJP, the coalition partner of the PDP-led government has showed their anger over the release of Masarat Alam. The alarm bell rang repeatedly as the Hurriyat hardline leader gave anti-India rant immediately after his release from the jail. This has also ignited fire in the people’s mind more. Immediately after swearing in as Chief Minister of the state Mufti Muhammad Syed instead of giving thanks to the Election Commission and the security forces for the peaceful vote, he praised the Pakistan and demanded Afzal Guru’s remains.
A key aide of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed , Md. Akhtar said the PDP-led government was determined to free more separatists despite the countrywide uproar over the release of Masarat Alam. The BJP, on the other hand, has cautioned that they will not tolerate any such move in the future. The focal point is that the Kashmir’s PDP-BJP government is getting trapped in ideology whereas they need to deliver on real issues.
Education minister of J&K’s belligerent stand came even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced outrage over the decision to free the Hurriyat hardliner on bail and told Parliament the Centre would not accept any compromise on the question of national unity. But Akhtar, considered one of Sayeed’s closest aides, said it was the policy of the new government “to create an atmosphere of reconciliation” in Jammu and Kashmir.
The J&K government has been formed on the basis of some common minimum programme where it does not specifically mention that people like Masarat would be released. But Akhtar said it specifically seeks “reconciliation” and talking to all stake holders which include the Hurriyat and talking to people even across the Line of Control which apparently include the militant leadership.
The prime minister’s appeal in parliament to avoid petty politics on this issue is welcome but the party must make sure that this message resonates with its Jammu unit of cadres who are now planning to hold a protest against the release of Alam. The PM’s statement that the centre was not even informed of this decision suggests a worrying trust deficit. He also stated that the opposition had no right to question BJP’s patriotism, yet both BJP and opposition parties must take care not to make every issue a test of nationalism.
Mufti Mahammad Syed on his part must realize that BJP’s constituency stretches far beyond just the Kashmir Valley. He had once described the alliance as a “historic opportunity”. It would be a great pity if that opportunity is now lost under the pressure of competing vote banks and opportunism.
Given the sensitive situation in Jammu & Kashmir, it is expected all sides to observe restraint. In a positive development, BJP has since toned down its charge against PDP. The state has suffered a lot and it is essential for the newly elected government to apply a healing touch. A regular review of cases of people detained under the Public Safety Act, to determine whether they continue to remain in prison without being charged is to be seriously thought.