J&K politics enters new era after crackdown on political nexus with terror groups

New Delhi, March 28: In sharp contrast to the earlier policy of the Centre—which accommodated all those who in power used to praise India, but turn to cursing it and praising Pakistan when in opposition—Narendra Modis establishment has gone in for a radical change in approach in wiping out this grey area. This is set to change the discourse of politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the Pulwama terror strike, the Centre has made it clear with its actions that in politics one would have to be ‘either with India or with Pakistan.’ This has shrunk the PDP’s space beyond imagination.

Article 370 and 35-A, that granted special status to J&K, was struck down in August 2019. The State was bifurcated into the two Union Territories. The Legislative Council was fully abolished. Almost all the prominent Kashmiri leaders, particularly those of the PDP and the NC, were arrested and detained for 8 to 12 months.

Being an ‘amphibian’ was a qualification for the PDP leaders ever since Mufti Mohammad Sayeed launched his own regional party to undercut Farooq Abdullah’s NC in 1999. While the NC was known for its red colour flag and Farooq’s anti-militant, anti-Pakistan jingoistic overtures, the PDP was perceived as soft to the separatists, militants and Pakistan. Strategically it chose green as the colour of its flag and once the Muslim United Front’s pen-and-inkpot as its election symbol.

The Mufti’s sustained campaign over ‘human rights abuse’ against the security forces and Farooq’s counterinsurgent force, the Special Operations Group, coupled with support from New Delhi worked. In 2002, Mufti Sayeed was installed as Chief Minister even as his PDP got only 16 seats in a House of 87 and NC bagged 28. The BJP supported the PDP-Congress coalition.

In 2003, senior PDP leader Abdul Aziz Zargar resigned as Minister of Agriculture when it was reported on the revelations of an accused that the militants who attacked Akshardham temple in Gujarat in 2002, had stayed at his home in Kulgam district. Chief Minister Mufti rejected Zargar’s resignation and continued him as a Minister in his Cabinet.

The NC, under Omar Abdullah, regained power and ran a coalition with the Congress from 2009 to 2014. In the Assembly elections in 2014, PDP won 28 seats and forged a power alliance with the BJP in March 2015. PDP’s protruding leanings towards the separatists and the militants—beginning with Massarat Alam’s controversial release—led to a catastrophic debacle of the PDP-BJP regime in June 2018.

The year 2019 proved to be the worst for the PDP. An unprecedented terrorist strike on Srinagar-Jammu highway near Awantipora, killing 40 CRPF personnel, forced the Centre to affect radical changes in its Kashmir policy. It wiped out the entire grey area that provided unlimited political space to the so-called amphibians ruling the roost since 1999.

The NIA case against the high-flying Waheedur Rehman Para, is for the first time ever that a chargesheet with alleged involvement in a terror case has been filed against someone close to a former Chief Minister.

NIA has claimed to possess evidence of the telephonic conversations between Para, rogue cop Davinder Singh and the actors of a Hizb module who included cop-turned-terrorist Syed Naveed Mushtaq, his brother and six others. Establishment of charges against Para would mean his rigorous imprisonment for several years.

Para has been charged with providing cash worth Rs 5 crore to Hurriyat (Geelani) through hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Fantoosh. Other charges include sending money worth Rs 10 lakh to Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba commanders and transportation of their arms and ammunition. At least one charge makes mention of ex-CM Mehbooba who, according to the NIA, spoke to ‘commander’ Syed Naveed Mushtaq at least once over telephone.

The trial has indeed triggered a fresh tribulation for many of the Kashmir politicians, particularly those in the PDP since long. Even as all the charges against Para are subject to judicial scrutiny, evidences and arguments, NIA’s action has a potential of changing a political discourse in Kashmir.

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