Post 370: Narrative in Kashmir is set to change

By Deepika Bhan. Dated: 9/23/2019 2:10:48 AM

There may be differing views as to what will be the situation in Jammu and Kashmir once the security clampdown is lifted. Over a month since the state was stripped of its special status and there's no clear message from the government as to when the lockdown will be removed. The erstwhile state seems to be by and large peaceful till now.
But, the actual picture would be clear once the shutdown is removed and the leaders of the various regional parties are set free. The question is what will they do after getting out? Will they chose to go on a warring path and if they do, then how far will their cry go or will the show be muted?
No more flip flop
Given the past history of the dominant regional political outfits, including the National Conference (NC) of the Abdullahs or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of the Muftis, being pro or anti has been like the two sides of the coin. Both have used the coin as per the suitability. When it catered to their needs, NC went along with the Congress or the NDA and so did the PDP by siding with the BJP. But, when it did not suit their scheme of things, the coin was easily flipped and a separatist inclined tone was adopted. This has been the strategy of most of the regional outfits in the Valley.
Abrogation of special status has led to a sort of existential crisis for the Valley leaders because their politics has been driven by the fissiparous philosophy of Article 370.
However, all this is set to change. The abrogation of Article 370 will impact the political narrative in the Valley. No longer can the politics of flipping coin work. In the post 370 scenario, it is either pro or anti stance, and the space for autonomous entity has ended. The mainstream politicians cannot toe the separatist line and the separatists are feeling psychologically defeated after the failure of the Muslim world to rise in support of them.
Limited Choice
Of all the Valley's mainstream political leaders, Farooq Abdullah has been the most vocal in demanding autonomy for the state. On June 26, 2000, NC-led state government passed the autonomy resolution in the Assembly, which was, however, rejected by the then Central government. When in Delhi, Farooq Abdullah talks about one India, but in Kashmir he demands the restoration of pre-1953 status to J&K. Being the senior most leader in the Valley, he retains the charisma of getting most of the flock behind him. Perhaps, sensing the trouble that he can brew, the Public Safety Act was slapped on him.
Even though it is not clear what the moves of Abdullah or others will be, the NC MP Akbar Lone gave a peek into the future course of action. He said that his party will contest the elections, and wants NC, PDP and all other regional parties to come together to agitate for restoration of Article 370. By talking about elections, NC has shown faith in the Constitution, but there is a big question mark on the unity efforts.
The two former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba are known rivals. During their detention at Hari Niwas Palace in Srinagar they are said to have quarreled so badly that the administration was forced to shift one of them from the place. Then there is Sajjad Lone who wants to project himself as an alternative to Abdullahs and Muftis. The IAS turned politician Shah Faesal made the quickest move in petitioning the Supreme Court against the abrogation of Article 370. By seeking the Apex Court, he has shown his faith in the Indian Constitution and the Law, even though his initial tweets were being seen as a rebellious stance. The Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad seems to be working aside his party on this matter so far. Congress has gone quiet on the matter after Pakistan mis-used Rahul Gandhi's statements on the situation in the Valley.
For the mainstream politicians in the Valley, the scope of choice is limited now. They can hold protests, choose to go to the Supreme Court, seek some kind of special status and demand the restoration of the statehood.
They may take time to reconcile to the present situation but the choice before them is not much and the way outs are not many. They can fight for restoration of the statehood and some kind of special provisions like those in Himachal or Uttarakhand.
Shattered Myths
The fact that the world, the Muslim block in particular, has chosen to ignore the happenings in Kashmir has shattered the myth and called the bluff of Pakistan and their backers in Kashmir. This reality surely weighs down upon all the Valley regional outfits, be they mainstream or the separatists. Though Pakistan is openly trying to instigate the Kashmiris, but the hard reality is that in doing so it has exposed itself as a terror promoting country.
Pakistan's playmate in the Valley, the Hurriyat Conference -- a conglomerate of several separatist and pro Pakistani groups -- is a shattered force today. And most of them are facing corruption and anti-terror charges, and some have been put behind bars. Post 370, the Centre has the right to directly intervene in the security, and law and order concerns within the state. Their vulnerability in the post 370 is exposed.
A new beginning
The Central government is trying to push the narrative of development and progress and has announced a few sops to give the general people in Jammu and Kashmir some positive ideas. While the situation in Jammu is far better and restrictions have been lifted to a large extent, the real challenge is in the Valley. The rural areas in Kashmir have been calmer, even Srinagar has not witnessed any abnormality. Perhaps people are waiting for the time to go by and the security clampdown to be removed.
*(The author is senior news television journalist based in delhi. She was born and brought up in Kashmir. As a journalist, she has also worked in Kashmir)



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