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Governing Kashmir

The death of the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, on 7 January 2016, led to the governor’s rule once again being imposed in the Valley. It also provoked much gossiping about ‘who will be the next chief minister’, which became a hot topic among locals debating all the various possibilities.  All eyes were on Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of the deceased chief minister and the chief patron of People’s Democratic Party (PDP). After a long silence she introduced her brother and when the rumours that PDP will discontinue their coalition with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were at their peak, everyone thought something new was going to happen.

In the 2014 elections PDP’s main agenda was to push the Hindutva forces (BJP) out from the Valley. They warned Kashmiri Muslims that if they did not vote then they could be ruled by an extremist Hindu ruler, which would be a threat to the Valley’s special status: Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the state and it may be repealed. In order to keep BJP at bay, the electorate voted in large numbers. PDP, which was formed in the nineties advocated that Kashmir is in dispute and it can be solved peacefully. This was ingrained in the memory of many who remember that during their previous rule a number of actions were taken such as the notorious ‘Special Task Force’ which was disbanded and the nocturnal raids by the security forces were discontinued, harassment of youth was diminished and also the number of bunkers were removed from different places. For this reason Kashmiris thought the PDP will be better than other political parties such as NC (National Conference). The infamous rule of NC’s Omar Abdullah had overseen120 youth killed in a 2010 uprising by security forces as well as allegations of his involvement in the hanging of Afzal Guru, which enraged their fans. In the 2014 elections people voted in their droves and PDP emerged the winner with a maximum number of seats. In a shocking betrayal they then made an alliance with BJP and it is they who then made it possible for BJP to rule in Kashmir. They shook people’s belief and provided a reason that they should ‘shake hands with the government at the Centre for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, to maintain unity of the state, and for peace and development’.

The hugely unpopular PDP-BJP government set about making drastic new changes in almost every department. They attempted to placate the uneasy population by claiming that the changes were designed to improve standards, root out corruption and enhance the system for the betterment of everyone.

After the death of Mufti Sayeed, PDP reconsidered their alliance and seemed to distance themselves from the BJP. After wooing voters with this promise, they once again shattered the people’s trust by cosying up to BJP once more. On 4th April Mehbooba Mufti became the first female chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. As soon as she came into power she had to face the test of incidents like NIT row and Handwara killings. The role which the PDP played during the reign of Omar Abdullah (NC), as Opposition, is now being played by NC and both play well. When they are in opposition and when they are given a chance to run the state, they do not appear to be any different.  

Jammu and Kashmir urgently needs a government which is not exclusively dependent on the decisions made by the Centre. Our state has a special status in the framework of the Indian constitution. It is time to do away with the special treatment, and be treated equally instead.

Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com