Making Sense of Mehbooba Mufti

Illustration: Mir Suhail

Since succeeding her father, Mehbooba Mufti, otherwise very vocal, has been shy of facing media for some known reasons. Till the recent interview with Muzamil Jaleel of Indian Express, Mehbooba has always dodged personal interviews with journalists both from Kashmir and India. In August, in a presser with Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, Mehbooba mocked the presence of journalists when posed with uncomfortable questions. Mehbooba continues to maintain distance from local press, intentionally like her father, Mufti Sayeed, who, according to a a report in by Valley-based prominent journalist, Parvaiz Bukhari, briefed press only once in his 10-month long second tenure as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, both Mehbooba and Omar Abdullah, now in Opposition, seem to be comfortable with Delhi-based journalists, who can be parachuted on demand.

After five months of political turmoil and democratic mess in valley, the beleaguered Chief Minister finally consented for a rare one-to-one rendezvous with journalist Muzamil Jaleel. While reading the interview, I was reminded of the words she told Parvaiz Bukhari when asked for an interview and I quote: Let me do some work, I’ll see after five-six months. After “five-six months” the mess she, as a Chief Minister, caused is spilled before all of us: around 100 killings, 15000 injuries, the “world’s first mass blinding”, months-long curfew, and thousands of detentions. As the head of the State, Mehbooba cannot beat around the bush but instead should be taking responsibility of havoc wrecked upon the people of Kashmir.

Since, she finally ended up her silence, it is necessary to decode her not-so-astute bluff to put things in proper perspective. Below, I’ll quote Mehbooba’s Indian Express interview in italics followed by my analysis as an observer.

The quiet in the Kashmir Valley now is a fragile calm. We have to do a lot of work to build bridges and mend fences.

One fails to understand how Mehbooba Mufti will repair the damage she herself caused to the people of Kashmir, given that she is considered a very “less powerful” Chief Minister who has to seek New Delhi’s consent to replace even a Chief Secretary. Miss Mufti’s efforts, whatsoever, have yielded nothing but snowballed only into controversies. After a prolonged uproar, when the Valley was limping back to so called ‘normalcy’, the Chief Minister unleashed the new ghosts by issuing Domicile Certificates to West Pakistan Refugees. As a result, the Valley is yet again on the edge of another major controversy for which the credit directly goes to none other than Chief Minister herself. It looks like she has become habitual of sailing into controversies.

My concern was how to control the situation in a way that there is no casualty and nobody gets hurt. That was the only focus.... It is not that 30-40 people died on the first day. News of deaths started trickling in, and the numbers started adding up in the first three days.

Twelve protesters were shot dead by forces and 200 more injured on the first day after Burhan Wani’s killing (Greater Kashmir: July 10, 2016). The 100+ deaths and 15000 injuries mocks the above statement of Chief Minister wherein she speaks of having focused on minimizing damage but the statics reveal that the only focus was to “control” people by “hurting” them. Even if, for a moment, we agree with Miss Mufti’s self-claimed “restrained strategy” why didn’t she succeed in minimizing the damage?

I tried my best along with my father. We tried to take fear out of their hearts because, if you recall, there was a time that when these young boys, men and women would pass a security forces camp, they were asked to run.

Contradicting her own statements whether current or pervious, the Chief Minister has given a practical proof of creating fear psychosis among Kashmiri boys after directing the security agencies to hunt them down. This can be substantiated by a very powerful story of Associated Press about how young people from South Kashmir, fearing police wrath, would hide in orchards. (Associated Press: Thousands in Kashmir hide from crackdown, some in orchards By Aijaz Hussian, November 4, 2016). Let’s agree young boys were afraid of passing a security camp in turbulent 1990s but all hell broke loose in past six months when these “security camps” were brought to the doors of common Kashmiris in the form of nocturnal raids. Upon whose directions did all this happen? (Kashmir Images: Kashmir limping back to normalcy but nocturnal raids trouble youths, October 3, 2016).

I was angry. How could people allow their kids to go out in such a charged atmosphere, when there is a hartal call, there is a chalo (march) call, there is curfew.

It’s not prudent on part of CM to pass blame on parents for letting their kids come out. She must know that this was not the first time in the history of Kashmir that the young people were hitting streets to demand freedom. After all protesting is a democratic practice. However, 2016 turned out to be exceptionally a different case wherein almost every Kashmiri irrespective of gender, cast and age was under attack. During the entire course of uprising, Mehbooba maintained confrontational attitude instead of feeling remorse which ultimately kept the pot boiling.

I feel police and security forces are disciplined forces and they are elders (adults). Maybe, by being a little more cautious, we would have saved some lives.

One cannot stop laughing at what Mehbooba said above about the police and other forces because whole world stands witness to the reality that police, in collaboration with other forces of India, carried out unprecedented mass brutalization including of 80-year-old woman, 6-month-old baby and countless youths. Miss Mufti should probably take some time off to read those thousands of media reports about the acts of “terrorism” by State security establishment. Media reports stand witness how forces ransacked houses, vandalized furniture, home appliances, smashed vehicles including ambulances carrying dead and injured and used vulgar language. Mehbooba may want to reconsider her decision of giving this “disciplined force” an honorary pat. (Rising Kashmir: Dozens beaten, houses allegedly ransacked in Padshahi Bagh, September 7, 2016)

Of course, I am going to pursue these cases. Wherever there has been anything that was brazen, definitely there is going to be some kind of mechanism.

Mehbooba Mufti should know that the politicians all over the world paricularly Kashmir are infamous for buying time in the name of appointing commissions, fact-finding committees. The promise of pursuing these cases is yet another political gimmick and attempt to rub salt on the wounds of traumatized Kashmiris. We all know the fate of Justice Koul Commission appointed by Mehbooba’s predecessor, Omar Abdullah, after 2010 killings. Who’s not familiar with the fate Truth and Reconciliatory Commission in Kashmir which was mooted by Omar.

It is not about just restoring the trust of people. It is not about that. My philosophy, my commitment, my conviction is about my father’s commitment to reconciliation... For any kind of reconciliatory measure or whatever, you need to create a conducive atmosphere.

The Chief Minister should stop beating the doll drums of reconciliation to Kashmir. Hardly there are people who want to buy this bluff and deceit. For any kind of reconciliatory measure, Mehbooba needs to create a conducive atmosphere by letting off the caged Hurriyat leaders, youths and fight a “battle of ideas” with them not a battle of bricks and bullets, slogans and pellets. How will Mufti reconcile with people whose kins were killed or maimed for life?

Independence has changed its meaning. It is more about globalisation, more about economy, how much you can go around. It is about free borders.

Mehbooba should not take the moral high ground talking about globalisation when she in her own State imposed the longest-ever curfew in capital Srinagar coupled with the ban on mobile and internet services for end number of months. The claims of globalisation fall flat before the people of Downtown who were not even allowed to buy local-made bread. The strict curfew on civil movement and telecommunication services dashed the hopes of any prospects of trade particularly of hundreds of start-ups set up by the youths searching avenues of earning. People in Srinagar were denied access to neighbouring localities and the CM is selling idea of free borders.

Had the Hurriyat responded to the all-party delegation, we may have moved forward.

Miss Mufti should stop befooling people by blaming Hurriyat instead she should come clean on the fact that Rajnath Singh-led delegation had not even recommendatory powers. Moreover, its members, who tried to reach out to Hurriyat leaders, were told by Delegation’s head that they were visiting Hurriyat leaders in their individual capacity. As a politician, Mehbooba must not forget that no political talks are held without a formal invitation.

The interview speaks of the dearth of substantial answers to some tough questions Mehbooba Mufti faces as the head of the State. It exposes her art of creating confusion among the readers’ mind to camouflage the ground realities in order to escape the responsibilities. Moreover, people wonder if Mehbooba, as a person, has her own ideas or not or she will keep quoting her father tirelessly?

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