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Mehbooba, Mirwaiz to Delhi: Wake up

By Saubhadro Chatterji
July 02, 2010 03:30 IST

At her home overlooking the picturesque Dal Lake, president of People's Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed slamed the central and state governments for the current crisis in Kashmir valley.

There's no way one can visit another heavily-guarded residence – that of separatist Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq – following the government's decision to put him under house arrest following the rising unrest in the Valley. Talking to Business Standard over telephone, Mirwaiz adopts the same tone.

But the two top leaders representing two important sections in Kashmir  have completely different views on the reasons behind the violence. Mehbooba Mufti feels it is an outburst of the people's anger against the mis-governance of the Omar Abdullah government.

Mirwaiz, on the other hand, said, "She is a politician, so she blames the state government. But the current movement has nothing to do with governance issues. It is totally related to the cause of the Kashmiris and the political solution of the larger Kashmir issue."

Mehbooba slams Omar Abdullah for his inability and lack of understanding of Kashmir politics. While she gives some credit to Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad as a chief minister, for her junior Abdullah is "the most inefficient chief minister the state has ever had."

"Law and order is directly controlled by New Delhi. Now the governor has passed an order asking all departments to submit a monthly progress report on development activities to him directly. So, what  does Abdullah do ? People were shocked to see Omar Abdullah become chief minister. But they gave him more than 18 months time hoping he would learn. He failed. And now the angry youth have come out on the streets," said Mehbooba.

"The situation is quite violent. The administration and New Delhi is trying to showcase it as a few cases of sporadic violence. But that's certainly not the case. New Delhi has always tried to manage the Kashmir issue; never tried to find a solution," said Mirwaiz.

"The guns are not there in the Valley now so it should have been the right time for New Delhi to start a process of finding a political solution to the Kashmir problem. It is not doing so and that's what makes the youth frustrated," Mirwaiz alleged.

Both leaders rejected Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's claim that Lashkar-e-Tayiaba is instigating the recent spate of violence in the Valley. "It has always been a wrong strategy of New Delhi. These are not sponsored but spontaneous protests. No sponsored protest can run for more than two decades," said Mirwaiz.

Mehbooba said, "The Home Minister is completely wrong in his assessment. Many of the young people who died had nothing to do with the protests. And obviously the youth is the first force to react to any injustice."

The two agreed on one issue: the army presence in Kashmir. Both leaders  draw a parallal between the strategies of the government of India against the Naxals and the one adopted in Kashmir.

"In Naxalite-hit areas the government is against the use of the army on the grounds that the army can't operate against its own citizens. But here the government keeps a large army and has never tried to reduce its presence. So, it's okay to fire against your own Kashmiri brothers but not the tribal youth. I am opposed to deployment of army in both areas," said Mehbooba Mufti.

"Why should there be two different policies on the deployment of army in two different places?" Mirwaiz asked.

"Isn't it strange that the Army chief is saying that Kashmir requires a political intervention and our chief minister said recently that he relies upon the army to solve the crisis?" Mehbooba quipped. Even if the two sides claim to be opposed to each other on many counts, Mirwaiz finds support from Mehbooba on another key area — the freedom of Hurriyat leaders.

While Omar Abdullah faces a tough political challenge from the law and order front, the PDP chief comes out in support of the confined Hurriyat leaders. "I don't subscribe to the idea of putting people in jail. Hurriyat leaders should be  set free immediately. Once, when my father was the chief minister, Yasin Malik led a protest march to hand over a memorandum to my dad. The police arrested him. My father slammed the then Inspector General and asked him: 'who gave you the permission to arrest him?' There was huge pressure from the National Democratic Alliance government to put Sayed Ali Shah Geelani under house arrest. But my dad didn't approve of these methods," recalled Mehbooba.

"People like Arundhuti Roy says so many things against the anti-Naxalite operations but the Union government has not been able to touch her. Then why arrest even moderate Hurriyat leaders to cover your own administrative failures," says Mufti.

Saubhadro Chatterji in Srinagar
Source: source