Cracking down on Hurriyat

Tightening curbs on separatist leaders in Kashmir not a good idea under present conditions
ActIT Jammu, Projects, Java,, C# Training Jammu

If there is method in the madness of tightening curbs on separatist leaders in Kashmir, it might be politically a foolish idea. Whatever shape the legal discourse in courts about recent controversy around JKLF leader Yasin Malik’s arrest takes, the question that needs to be grappled with is whether such arbitrary methods help aggravate or ameliorate a situation. Legally, Malik’s arrest in a case pending against him since 1987 will have a certain legitimacy. But the timing of coinciding this sudden penchant for digging up a 30 year old case and selectively cracking down at Malik at a time when is reported to have made some efforts to unite the various divided factions of Hurriyat and other separatist leaders, makes it important to judge the incident not just from the legal but also from the political point of view.

Is it coincidence that Malik has been selectively picked up and singled out from the list of other accused in the case? Or is it timed with the unity efforts that he is involved with, as claimed by Malik himself? It is probable that this crackdown is designed to serve the purpose of opposing such an effort. Who stands to gain out of this? Is it Mehbooba Mufti and her Peoples Democratic Party? The party may have only a short term interest in keeping such unity efforts postponed because strengthening the Hurriyat in run up to Anantnag elections can strengthen any boycott call and thus harm the party vote bank interests. Mehbooba may wish to protect such an interest but would it be at the cost of earning herself the tag of being repressive and ruthless by beating up family members of Yasin Malik while raiding his house, as has been alleged? The PDP’s long term interest, if its leaders have the farsight to understand, lies not in weakening or cracking down on the Hurriyat but in allowing it a space. Mufti Sayeed became successful in providing an atmosphere of relief in 2002 solely because he did away with the culture of restrictions and frequent arrests of civilians as well as separatist leaders but hijacked their very agenda of dialogue and peaceful resolution of Kashmir. The present PDP regime is unable to repeat that magic, not only because of it is difficult to maintain partnership with BJP but also because New Delhi’s policy with respect to Kashmir changed a vast deal since Mufti’s last tenure.

Malik’s arrest also needs to be contextualized in the way the central government responds to the larger Kashmir issue. Post 2007, successive government at the Centre have shown little desire for a peace process in Kashmir and Malik’s arrest is not a novel departure but a part of that tightening control and repression. It is no secret that in the last few years, the separatists have spent more time in jails or under house arrests rather than as free persons, crackdowns on civilians have increased and arresting youth randomly has become the norm. It happened during the Omar government. It is happening now and with a far greater speed. Omar failed in resisting the pressures even though he made some initial feeble efforts to reduce the footprints of military also because he thought of his own short term interests that such repressive policies could serve. Will Mehbooba be foolish enough to repeat the same mistake? If the recent actions serve any purpose for her, mostly with respect to vote bank politics, is she being blinded by such petty interests to create a larger problem for herself. Or would she be able to resist diplomatically with some degree the pressures of the Centre and her alliance partner because a complete surrender would only squeeze her own space? As for the BJP, which is now trying to broaden its horizon by improving its foreign relations with several countries, tightening its control over Kashmir and introducing more repression there will go against its own interests. India’s deals with Iran can be successful only by factoring in Pakistan and for peace with Pakistan, it cannot ignore Kashmir, even if it can at best patch up a cosmetic effort. For the sake of peace, any brutality in dealing with Kashmir will be counter-productive. Even for the sake of BJP’s and PDP’s own interests.